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by his younger brother, Mohendranath Datta, who lived with him for much of his time in England, in 1895 and 1896. The book was published in 1937 by Mohendra Publishing Committee, Calcutta. The book's author reports the events and remarks surrounding Swami Vivekananda and his close associates. He also includes his own profuse observations and theories regarding the teachings Swamiji gave in London. The present writer has translated only the first of these two features, reports relevant for us today. Some in India doubt the accuracy of Mohendra Datta's memory and even veracity, in his accounts, partly because the book was written some years after the author had returned to India and because of his penchant for the miraculous. However, it is highly probable that he kept a journal and he could not have grossly misreported. The material is valuable, not only for what it gives us of Swami Vivekananda's daily life, but also for the light it throws on the lives of Swami Saradananda and J.J. Goodwin. We feel this to be ample justification for making it available to the public. Sister Gargi (Marie Louise Burke) had first rights to it and used some of the information in her biographical books on Swami Vivekananda. The book was dedicated to J.J. Goodwin. The Preface tells us that Goodwin had two unmarried sisters. He had filled seven notebooks with Swami Vivekananda’s words. These were sent by Alasinga Perumal and others to the mother, Mrs. Goodwin, who, unable to decipher the shorthand, destroyed them. Sister Nivedita attempted to trace the family but could not. In London a woman in nurse’s uniform used to take down Swamiji’s lectures in shorthand. Who she was or where she lived no one knows. Mohendra is going to do his best; he has not put in his own opinions or feelings [in this portion of the book]; he records here what little he can recall.
Chapter I Mr. Sturdy had met Swami Shivananda at Almora, as a result of which he invited Swami Vivekananda to come to London. Swamiji did not do much work in the visit of 1895 because he was so tired from the American work. Mohendra arrived a week later than Swami Saradananda in that year. Someone told Mohendra that Sturdy was going to rent the house of Lady Margesson who
was to be away for several months. Two Swamis, Miss Muller and Goodwin moved into it. Mohendra refers to Miss Muller as “old.” He was living in another town at the time. On meeting Swamiji Mohendra noticed many changes in his appearance and his voice. When expressing certain feelings his left hand would clench and release by turns. A friend of theirs from Madras, also in London then, said the same. “Naren has a new power and presence.” After staying a few weeks in the Margesson house at 63 St. George’s Road, Swamiji took Swami Saradananda and Mohendra with him on a visit to Miss Muller’s home in Maidenhead [It was called “The Meads.”] A complete description is given of the house and yard. There was also a sort of arbor in which Miss Muller and Swamiji often sat for afternoon tea. One day when the news arrived of the death of Swami Brahmananda’s small son, Swamiji was visibly affected for some time. About Dharmapala of Ceylon he said, “He was a mere representative, with no particular learning. He went there with only one lecture prepared. When I saw how little he knew, I wondered what to do: ‘Well, Buddha is one of our avatars,’ I thought, and girding my loins began myself to tell the people about Buddha.” One day at 3 p.m. Mr. and Mrs. Sturdy arrived on two bicycles, sat and talked about the London plans, rent etc. They decided to forward money themselves in hope of recovering some later. Miss Muller wore a “man’s” suit, in the fashion of London at the time. Swami Vivekananda alwaysfollowed the custom of speaking in the language understood by all present. A conversation took place between him and Miss Muller: Swamiji said, “I will have a lot of difficult work to do in this life. Compared with last time, there is much more to be done.” Miss Muller: “One feels like working for some time, but then it becomes troublesome; can a person go on working for a very long time?” But Swamiji seriously and firmly replied, “This time I will work up to the very last moment.” Later he said, “In a previous life I was born as Buddha.” Although Miss Muller probably was not much impressed at this, the remark made the other two listeners wonderstruck. He said other things about his past births, in an excited manner. Then his eyes twinkled and he made fun of it all. Miss Muller had a peevish disposition and could not get along with anyone. Resuming the topic, Swamiji said, “Well I have just begun my work; in America I have just raised one or two waves; a tidal wave must be raised. Society must be turned upside down. The world must be given a new civilization. The world will understand what Power is and why I have come. Compared with the power I showed last time, it will be tremendous.” Swami Saradananda put up with many difficulties in Western food and ways: he felt pinched and bound by Western clothes and manners. Mohendra knew it.
Before Swami Vivekananda, Swami Saradananda was circumspect. Miss Muller was a vegetarian [and was in charge of the housekeeping]. Chapter II While at “The Meads”, Swami Vivekananda wrote a report to the “Brahmavadin.” Swami Saradananda was writing it and reading it out to Swamiji in a sing-song voice. “Do you think you are reciting the Chandi?” he asked him. “Read simply and clearly.” One day he was in a buoyant mood, light-hearted, and a hilarious scene took place in which the two stout swamis tried to mount and ride a bicycle, in the field in from of Miss Muller’s house. That day he was his boyish self, all jokes, and sang in a sweet voice a Bengali song: “Who set me adrift on the waves in the boat of desire? At morn the boat went floating and I thought this was a grand play of the water, and the spring breeze would blow sweet. I would go floating in joy.” Swamiji usually wore a collar which buttoned in front, i.e., an ordinary collar. Although a preacher, he did not use the clerical collar, nor did he wear a tie; his jacket came up high and close around the throat. He would tire of the monotonous food and would decide to go to the kitchen and cook some hot curries. It was here that he said to Swami Saradananda, “Why don’t you write a short life of Sri Ramakrishna?” Miss Muller had written to Prof. Max Muller for arranging an interview for Swamiji on a fixed day. Swami Saradananda had quickly set to work to produce the desired short life, which he read to Swamiji. The latter made some few alterations but he liked it. The next day they took this account of the life with them when the three went to visit Max Muller. From that the professor took many incidents into his own writing and even the language in places. They all came back to the Margesson house at 63 St. George’s Rd. [Dates are almost never given.] It was a five-storey house. As one entered, on the right front was the parlor, back of it a couple of small rooms, in one of which Swami Vivekananda slept; beyond that a small lavatory. Mounting the stairs one came upon a large first-floor room [British reckoning; it was the American second floor, and not very large], beautifully decorated [or “furnished”], suitable as a lecture or drawing room. It was in two sections, one smaller, and the other, being above the parlor and passage, larger. The sections were separated only by iron pillars supporting the ceiling. On the street side of the room stood a table and chair. Standing by these, Swamiji used to give his lectures. On the right of this, i.e. the visitors’ left, in the middle of the wall was a fireplace. In the corner between this and the street was a table where Goodwin would sit and take the
notes, his back to the room. About 150 people [?] could be seated. As one entered the room one found on the left wall some bookcases full of books and along the back wall was a large spring sofa. On the next floor were the rooms Miss Muller lived in. Between the first [second] and second [third] floors was the bathroom. The kitchen was in the basement, with storeroom, servants’ quarters, boiler etc. Going upstairs a bit farther one found a large room in which two or three persons might sleep, with iron beds. Near the street wall was a rocking-horse for children. This room became Swami Saradananda’s and Mohendra’s bedroom. A round table in the middle of the room and three chairs kept company with a large fireplace. Above this room was a long room with the roof as ceiling, sloping on the sides so that one could stand up only in the very middle of the area; this was the “garret.” And this is where J.J. Goodwin enters the scene. He had brought all his belongings to this room in his bags. He was only twenty-three or -four years old, but he looked thirty-five because he had already had a hard life. His heart was very simple and sweet. He loved verbal jousting and if he got no chance to argue with someone, he wasn’t happy. He would say to Swami Saradananda, “You kooky Swami, devil Swami, blacky Swami! You close your eyes and meditate and think, ‘when will it be lunch time? When will the food bell ring?’” Chapter III In the parlor [ground floor] was a central round table and four chairs, a fireplace opposite the door. There was an easy chair near it for Swamiji; except for Sturdy no one else used it. There was a secretary table. The ceiling had a lotus flower design in gesso. The lighting was gas. The following hilarious scene is described: Both Swami Saradananda and Mohendra are up in their room with (recurrent) malarial fever. Swami Saradananda is walking around, delirious, “rehearsing” a lecture. He tells Mohendra, “Are you listening? You say ‘Hm’ from time to time so that I will know.” With great difficulty Mohendra replies ‘Hm’. On the day when Swami Saradananda was recovering, Swamiji came in and Saradananda, falling down before him on his knees, clung to Swamiji’s feet and wept like a child. “Make me well. Lift off this burden!” he said again and again, keeping his head on Swamiji’s feet. Swamiji smilingly said, “Sit up, you fat rascal! Just see what the malarial fever has wrought! You will have to lecture, or I will beat you with a stick and throw you down to the street from this window. I will send you to the workhouse; do you not know how much money has been spent? (To bring him
there.) Swami Saradananda replied, “Beat me or do whatever you like, only make me well or I will not let you go.” “So be it, rascal,” said Swamiji. “Now get up.” Swami Saradananda stood up like one utterly obedient. “Look,” Swamiji said, “sitting in my chair in the dining-room I was building up power. Don’t you know how to build up power? But what you have seen I did before your eyes.” (Apparently he means that he has done a “miraculous” cure of Mohendra.) Swami Saradananda said, “Fine, you have done well; set my mind at rest.” Swamiji said to Mohendra, “Don’t take any more quinine; take it out and throw it away; will-power is everything. Don’t eat any bread today, take sago milk.” And he went away. Swami Saradananda said: “This is not the old Naren any more; today I have seen at first hand how by will the fever of so many years’ standing has been driven off.” This was the day of the first class lecture [i.e. 7th May?] Swami Saradananda used to teach Miss Muller a bit of Sanskrit. Swami Saradananda and Mohendra went to the Indian Empire Exhibition at Earls Court. Around the first of May, Mr. John P. Fox, a young man from America arrived and spent some time. Fox was very fond of Swami Vivekananda whom he had met at Mrs. Bull’s house in Cambridge, Mass. where Fox was secretary for a conference. For this reason everyone treated him well. Miss Muller had studied at Cambridge University with a Dr. John Venn, (author of Logic of Chance). One day she took Swamiji to meet him. They talked about philosophy in various forms in different countries. Swamiji impressed the professor very much and he was most pleased with the encounter. Mohendra did not hear a word of this from Swamiji, who said only that someone had been pleased to meet him. Miss Muller once mentioned seeing all the old cows in India and their pitiful condition. She remarked that in England such unproductive and suffering animals are done away with. Swami Saradananda made the mistake of asking her, “Then why not do away with our parents too, when they get old?” Miss Muller, whose elderly mother was living, would not speak to him for three days. “You see, Sarat,” said Swamiji on hearing about it. “In this country there are two kinds of old maids: some grow fat; they are cool-hearted and comfortable; the others get dried up and they are peevish. Around old maids you must take great care – stand up when they come into the room; ask, “How are you?”; keep your hands out of your pockets etc. Quickly give them whatever they want.” There used to be lectures on Tuesday, from eleven to one. The same subject was given again at 7 p.m. The same arrangement on Fridays. [This must be a
mistake in his memory]. After about a month there was a Sunday lecture at 4 p.m. in the gallery of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolors. The former were called class lectures and they began with the Yoga Aphorisms; then, bearing on this, whatever works there were, Eastern or Western, be it history, chemistry, physics etc. he would talk on without let; afterwards, questions. At this time there was no particular formality, the conversation being all quite spontaneous. Some days it was the answer period which was more attractive than the lecture. But the subject matter was so deep and difficult and he spoke so fluently, that it was impossible to keep in mind what he said – and even the speaker would sometimes forget what he had said a moment before. Goodwin had many shorthand notes of the speeches Swami had given in America; now there was talk of getting these ready for printing. Whenever he had time Goodwin would transcribe these and try to get them printed. In this, Sturdy was the most enterprising, while Miss Muller and others were also agreeable. Swamiji on many days did not eat lunch at home. Some particularly big person or other would come and take him out to lunch, or to tea. Goodwin would breathe easier when Swamiji was out of the house. Fox, not being a vegetarian would go out to eat. This day Goodwin, having finished his work began to dance and cut up, showing different folk dances. Swami Saradananda said, “Just see, what exertion the English are capable of! This fellow Goodwin has gone around the whole city, has read his proof-sheet, and now see him dance! Without this energy could the race have risen up?” Chapter IV There used to come to the morning lecture an elderly lady from distant Crystal Palace or Sydenham, who was past sixty, stout and white-haired. She would mount the stairs slowly and seat herself with difficulty. Although summer had begun, she was wrapped up as if it were winter and would perspire. Mohendra handed her a fan and they got into conversation. “I love this Swami’s talks,” she said, “I seem to be seeing someone out of the Bible as it were. Though I am only an old woman and cannot understand much of the philosophy, Swami speaks in such a way, with his voice and gestures and all, that I am charmed. It is as if I were seeing clearly before my very eyes many incidents of the Bible.” Mohendra asked her where she came from and she told him. “Where will I get the carriage-hire to come so far? So I ride part way and walk part way, but I don’t miss a lecture.” Miss McLeod and Other Friends
On one occasion Miss McLeod came in and impressed Mohendra mightily with her devotion to and faith in, Swamiji. (He describes the gathering): Swamiji entered with Swami Saradananda and Goodwin, the latter taking up his post at the table. As the room was crowded, Swami Saradananda and Mohendra climbed the stairs to the landing and sat there in chairs. In a corner of the hall on a sofa sat Sturdy, who, for all these lectures, served as chairman. Gradually even the landing filled, so Swami Saradananda, Fox and Mohendra moved up to the first step of the third-floor stairs. What little they could hear was good. Now there came the nurse who used to attend; she was in uniform. About thirty or so years old and thin of build, she would sit just by the terrace door and with concentrated mind take down everything in shorthand. She did not look around nor talk with anyone and went away quickly. She came ever (class) morning but made acquaintance with none. Many of those attending would speak a bit with Swamiji before leaving. Often someone or other invited him to lunch. More ladies would attend than men, who were seen more in the evening. He was not called Swamiji by Goodwin or others. At night there were many gentlemen. One big “Canon” of London used to attend with this wife [Haweis]. He was particularly fond of Swamiji and showed faith and devotion. After evening lecture Swamiji would take either Sturdy or Goodwin for a walk on the street; he would feel tired after talking so long and when he returned from walking was able to get sleep. When Miss McLeod was in town she would come about 1 p.m. Every day from Wm. Whitely’s shop many fruits, choice, rare, expensive, would come at 11 a.m. Who paid the bill or ordered them no one knew; many guessed but no one asked, through respect. One day Sturdy was very happy, for the lecture attendance had been very good, and he was trying for a Sunday lecture. He told the story of a schoolmate caned by a master. “I get awfully angry when I see a man beating a boy,” he remarked. Goodwin: “Yes, Mr. Sturdy, and I too, when I see a man beating a donkey.” “That is because it rouses your fellow-feeling,” said Swamiji, and all had a good laugh. Swami Vivekananda’s first book printed in London was done by Kegan Paul. A remarkable dream A lady of about forty-two or three named Johnson, who was English but born in Moscow, came around. With much devotion and animation she told her dream: A luminous man came to her and said, “Come along.” Without a doubt or objection she began to follow him. Going a long way across a field they
came to sea shore. It was a very dark night, yet a wooden ship was seen to be at hand. A voice came out of the darkness, “Board this ship.” The ship spread its sail, caught the wind and moved swiftly. All around, a boundless sea. All black sky, not even stars to be seen. Gradually fear came over her; darkness all around, who this pilot was, or her fellow-passengers – nothing could she understand. Then she saw a rope stretched between the mast and the prow, and on it a lantern hanging. Small as this light was, it gave her hope. Then she saw, standing by the light, someone who was the Captain or other officer of the ship. She could see him clearly. At the sight of his face, clear as a photo, her heart rose. Looking at her and seeing her fear, he said, “There is no fear; even in the dark the ship will go to its destination; you need not be afraid.” Suddenly she woke up. Miss Johnson: “I couldn’t say of what country was the man whom I saw bit it affected me so much and looking in many places in Russia I could never find that face. I have been living for several years in London and decided my dream was my delusion. Several weeks ago I heard that a preacher of Hinduism had come and was giving lectures. As soon as I saw Swami Vivekananda and heard him speak, I knew it was the same person.” Then she said that she hadn’t gone up to speak to him, as she was a woman and would not know what to say. Mohendra got the impression of a sincere and truthful woman. One devotee was the wife of a general [Lady Ferguson?] One night while walking Swamiji told Sturdy how he met Goodwin. “When I first gave lectures in America, who wrote down anything or kept track of what was said? Finally everybody insisted that such fine lectures were being lost, and these must be recorded. So an advertisement was placed in the newspaper for a shorthand stenographer. Many job-seekers applied and I saw all were Americans. But one English lad had gone to America and, attending the Exhibition, had taken down my Chicago speech and given it to the newspapers. Now he was foot-loose. He came, and was hired. At first he took wages and lived and ate elsewhere; after a few weeks he became very devoted to me and said, ‘I don’t want to take any other work; I wish to do everything for you.’ From that time he has stayed with me. He does a tremendous amount of work for me; without him I would be in difficulty.” Sturdy became very serious and Swamiji changed the subject. After breakfast one day there was the translating of a portion of theNarada Sutra. When Sturdy had left, Swami Vivekananda came out of his room wearing his lecture clothes (long red shirt and silk waistband). Now lecture arrangements had been made for Sunday also; many were attending the classlectures etc. so Swamiji was very happy. It was about an hour before morning class; the busy traffic on the street could be seen through the large dining-room windows. Swamiji, looking out, began a comic song: “Umbrella in hand, hat on
the head, so many pretty girls are going by with basketsful of flour smeared on their faces (powder).” He put it to such a droll and mysterious tune, that Mohendra had to laugh uncontrollably. Swamiji said to Swami Saradananda, “See the ladies have put powder on their faces as if they had scraped it up with a hoe.” Swamiji saw that only a few minutes remained till lecture time. Still he was laughing and joking with the other swami, poking ribs and playing. They were like two kids as they went up the stairs. Gradually, as Swamiji went up he became a totally different person, that look of a lion-conqueror, master ascetic etc. coming over him. Swami Saradananda seeing him, fell behind, silent and awed. England contrasted with America One day Swamiji was sitting in his long easy-chair and smoking his pipe, when his glance fell on Fox’s shoes, which were brown boots with pointed toes. Swamiji said, “In America those who wear this kind of shoe get their toes curled, the toes pressed. At first it seems uncomfortable.” Then, “America seems to be full of electricity. What exertion and enthusiasm there is everywhere! I used to see poor Italians or Russians entering the country with pack on the back, halting steps, afraid of anyone, wearing soiled clothes; after two or three months I saw that they were wearing respectable clothes, walking erect, going into restaurants and eating with everyone. No more idea of fear! The country is free, you see; so into them also that freedom has entered. And if a man makes a new invention, right away he gets a patent on it and makes a fortune.” And he went on in that vein. “What a desire for work! Nobody depends on anyone else. Son doesn’t wish to remain dependent on father, nor father on son. Seeing America I was able to understand what Freedom is. I saw that great or small, a man works with the idea that one day he may become a millionaire, or even President. Work, work, self-manifestation, tearing up obstacles – demonstrate freedom – this is in the very air of America.” When one evening he told the story of Narada on his way to heaven meeting the two aspirants, the ladies were in raptures. Gathering around Swamiji they said, “I never heard such a beautiful story; it has brought peace to my heart.” The discourse was very good that night. The average person did not understand the discussion of Raja Yoga: dhyana, dharana and all that. They listened because they had to. But everyone enjoyed the talk on Bhakti of that evening. Swamiji, too, was not in a very serious mood that day. Coming down from the lecture room to the dining room, all the “family” being there, Swami Saradananda emptied a full glass of water at one gulp. “Look at that!” said
Swamiji to Sturdy and Miss Muller, “I lectured and hegot thirsty.” Looking at the other Swami he said, “Did you speak, that you have become so thirsty?” Swami Saradananda said smiling, “Well, your lecture was such a threat (dhamak), who wouldn’t get thirsty? It was not one glass, but three glasses.” All laughed. Even Miss Muller was very happy with the talk, and Sturdy praised it. Chapter V For the Piccadilly Sunday lectures the Water Color Painter’s Gallery was hired, and a notice placed in the newspaper. A church paper published that an atheist had come from India to preach his doctrines; he did not believe in God, criticized the Christian religion and various other nice things. In all the newspapers such was the influence of the clergy that this was the general understanding. On Friday or Saturday evening Goodwin would write out, on small pieces of paper, notices ready to be sent to each newspaper. As many copies had to be made, Swami Saradananda and Mohendra did this. These were sent but not a mention came out in the Sunday papers. From this it was clearly understood that there was a strong inside prejudice. Goodwin was just as determined: every week when he wrote the notice he would send it to all the papers. But there was no mention in the church news column. Canon Haweis Goodwin heard that in a church near Regent’s Park a highly-placed clergyman was going to give a talk on Hinduism or relating to Swami Vivekananda. The man (a Canon) used to attend regularly the evening class, with his wife and daughter. He had great regard for, and faith in, Swamiji. More people attended the Regent’s Park church than most churches; at that time this man was very popular with the common folk. Next day Goodwin suggested that after breakfast Swami Saradananda, Goodwin, Fox and Mohendra all go together to hear the sermon. Swamiji at first agreed. Fox pronounced the preacher’s name “Hawees”; Swamiji corrected him: “Hawai-s.” A bit later, Goodwin, thinking it over said, “Let Fox and me go, otherwise people seeing two Indians, many would guess that they had come to spy out what would be said about Swami Vivekananda.” In the end Fox could not go and Goodwin went alone. When he returned he reported, “What a lecture! Backty and Backto.” Canon Haweis had said that this idea comes from India. Just now from India had come this Swami Vivekananda who was explaining this so beautifully. Many people were hearing and appreciating it and he himself had learned it from him. If this approach could be brought into
Christianity it would be beneficial etc. Goodwin laughed a lot about the (pronunciation) Backty and Backto, but said many times how happy the sermon had made him. Lecture at the Galleries By four o’clock all were ready to go to Piccadilly. Miss Muller went by herself. The men all went by “bus” (horse-drawn). Swamiji and Sturdy sat on the roof on a bench, talked and smoked cigarettes, the other three sitting behind them. Upstairs at the Galleries Swamiji first made light talk with acquaintances. In the hall, four or five hundred could be seated. Goodwin said there would be many people at lecture time. Ahead of time, Swami Saradananda and Mohendra occupied a sofa near the lecture platform, lest they not be able to get out afterward. Swamiji seated two Indians inside and turning around and coming back, began to welcome everyone at the door. Miss Muller, not getting a place in the hall, stood near the door, with a necklace of huge yellow glass beads around her neck. There were some pictures on the walls, and a polished wooden floor. The speaker’s place was a platform at one end with table and glass of water. Mr. Sturdy mounted this and introduced the subject and speaker in a couple of minutes and stepped down. Meanwhile Goodwin tipped off Swamiji as to the subject announced, as he would forget what had been published. He did not worry about or prepare the lectures. He wore a red tunic or long shirt, a collar but no tie. There was a sash around his waist but he was bare-headed. With his arms crossed on his chest he began to pace the platform like a swift lion. His facial expression was now altogether changed. Now his facial expression became completely changed. The same person who, five minutes before had been just laughing and making jokes like an ordinary man, smoking a cigarette, now in him a sleeping power had suddenly awakened; the muscles had become firm and hard, the eyes dilated and his glance full of fire and authority. He had become a man free and disembodied. Then he lowered his arms to his side and occasionally swung them a little. All of sudden he stood stiff, his eyes had an inward look; he seemed to have left the gross body and gone to the subtle, and he remained with a fixed gaze like this, as if looking at something in the air. Then gradually, with tones of affection the words began to come out quickly. Even when his voice was soft, he would be clearly heard to the end [of the hall?] Gradually as the thought became tense and complex, so the voice would rise accordingly. Slowly his left arm was set in motion and the fingers of his hand sometimes clenched, sometimes spread, expressing the thought in his
mind. Sometimes he would raise his right arm, and sometimes when the thought was very profound, he used both arms to aid the expression. Thus the lecture ended after nearly an hour and a half. The audience had sat still and breathless as if there were no one in the room. Then he drank water, came down, seemed his normal self and within five minutes tried to mix with everyone. Even then a “lit” look remained in his face and eyes. Among the audience those who were American said, “We heard this lecture in America.” But those who were hearing it for the first time were astonished. Miss McLeod was present. The house lectures were on Raja Yoga and the Piccadilly ones serially on Jnana Yoga and other stories and subjects arranged in various places in the Complete Works. Below stairs One day Swamiji and his brother-Swami went down to the kitchen, made ghee, cooked potatoes into khichuri, and made a very spicy curry and brought it up to the dining-room. Suddenly Swami Saradananda said to Mohendra, “Oh, take a bit out for Miss Cameron, otherwise she will scold us when she comes in the afternoon.” Mohendra did so, but Miss Cameron did not come that afternoon. She came next day at four o’clock bringing a young Swiss man [Max Gysi?]. Miss Cameron was about forty-five years old, a friend of Mr. Sturdy. She loved Swamiji very much and had a loud mouth but a big heart. She would come to the door and say, spiritedly, to Swami Saradananda, “You kooky Swami, you devil Swami,” etc. Though scolding, she would examine everything minutely, from kitchen to bedroom, seeing whether the kitchen was supplied, what was being cooked, talk over with the housekeeper the menus etc., tidy up each room, see if the sheets were clean, then come and sit in the dining-room. The young man had spoken before with Swami Saradananda and Mohendra. Later it was learned that he came from Switzerland and Miss Cameron was taking care of him like an adopted son. When Swami Saradananda fed them some of the curry, it made her eyes water and she cried out, “Oh, it is poison,” and teased him. Goodwin always stayed close to Swamiji, listened carefully to his words and took down everything about Vedanta and Raja Yoga. At that time the mood of Vedanta became much awakened in Goodwin. There was an elderly maidservant (apparently Irish) with whom he used to banter. She once took exception to something that was being done in the house and when told “Swami Vivekananda is responsible for it; why don’t you complain to him?”, she lost her nerve and said, “No, Swami is a great man. I love him much. He is very kind to all. He is a great-hearted man!” She never attended any lecture and stayed downstairs; but seeing and hearing about the people who came to him
and what they said, she had much faith in him and devotion to him. Sturdy, who did not smoke and did not know tobacco, one day brought Swamiji a pound of special pipe tobacco which he tried, but could not get to burn properly. He said to Goodwin, “You see, Sturdy is rather stingy. He got a bargain, and so the tobacco is no good. No taste, no smell, it won’t draw in the pipe. Throw this away, my boy, and go out and get me some good tobacco. All day I have to spend talking with people, have to lecture, have to think; I can’t even smoke a little if I want to. This sour-faced man into whose hands I have fallen has taken the life out of me.” Goodwin did as he was bidden. Clarification of “Yoga” A young man from Gujerat named Deshai [who wrote in Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda] used to come to Swamiji frequently. Sometimes he would write Sanskrit poems and read them to him. Hearing these the latter would say, “Do the work you came here to do, with a concentrated mind. You didn’t have to cross the seven seas and all that to compose Sanskrit poems; you could have done that sitting at home.” Sometimes one or two other Gujerati boys also would come. Deshai once asked, “Swamiji, you are always giving lectures on Raja Yoga. Why not Hatha Yoga?” “Look, my boy, wearing the sadhu’s outfit and wandering all over India I had a difficult time enough to get my meals; and you speak of hatha yoga! In hatha yoga one has to regulate the food, wrap the body in a flannel blanket, etc. This is a business fraught with difficulties. Those who have provision for proper food, whose mind doesn’t go in other directions, who can sit by the hour and carefully look after the body, can do hatha yoga. Deshai: “But doesn’t hatha yoga help to improve the mind?” Swamiji: “Mind improvement and all mental matters are called raja yoga. Hatha yoga is only fixing the body. One can keep it a long time. In Maharaj Ranjit Singh’s durbar there was a sadhu named Baba Haridas. He was a hatha yogi. Once he showed the hatha yoga practices. First he sat stiff. Then, putting him into a safe-like box, people fastened it with a chain, buried the chest in the earth and planted wheat over it. The wheat ripened and was cut; five or six months had passed. On all sides guards were kept. When it was opened there was Baba Haridas still stiff, only the top of his head was a little warm. Then his disciples began to rub his back with the juice of trees and shrubs to bring him back to outer consciousness. Ranjit Singh wanted to present him with many gifts, but he would accept nothing. At the end of his life he was not very well. In hatha yoga there is no improvement in the mind, merely doing different things with the body. Raja Yoga is the only way for matters mental.”
Swamiji and History Fox became so much attracted to Swamiji’s genius that on any argument raised he would go to him for authority. When it came to history, Fox said, “Swamiji says that the French are the Persians of Europe.” Talking with Fox Swamiji said one day, “Pajamas and tailored dress were first made by the Persians and then taken up by others; the other races of Europe now demonstrate the elegance of the Persians.” He and Fox used to talk a lot of history. Once Swamiji said: “At the time of Megasthenes many of the people of India were Persian. He was a contemporary of Chandragupta. But thereafter with the ascendancy of Buddhism, the Indian blood got mixed with all kinds of other peoples and the race became dark-skinned, and their strength diminished.” One day the subject came up of the Roman Emperor Aulus Vitellius (15 – 69 CE). In Gibbon’s Roman History it is mentioned that Vitellius did nothing but eat during his reign. Swamiji said that myna birds from Assam, peacocks from various parts of India, used to go to Rome. Vitellius would eat myna birds cooked in ghee and milk. And the liver of white fox from Siberia. The man’s food was very odd. Fox used to say about Swamiji, “He puts to shame many an American professor and pandit.” Sometimes Swamiji would say to Fox, “Look, I have seen your America. People have become mad to make money; it is their whole world. They are unaware that there is anything else to be thought about. Do you know what? One day when I went to see the Exhibition in Chicago I took ride on the huge merry-go-round. Two people happened to bump their heads together, and instead of being ashamed and apologizing to each other, they exchanged business cards! People speak of nothing but business. But when the country becomes a bit more prosperous, their minds will go to higher things; then in that land you will see the development of philosophy, art and music. Oh, what a time I had in one big American barbershop! One has to take somebody with him as a birth certificate – otherwise the barber of a respectable shop will not cut the hair of a “darkie.” This is a terrible thing. I saw that the hatred of dark color is very strong in America.” One day about two or three o’clock Swamiji was leaning back in his easy chair in one corner of the room, his legs crossed, eyes closed, as if pondering something. He stayed this way a long time. Fox, Mohendra and others were sitting still. Swamiji suddenly uncrossed his legs and said with a serious face: “Fox, I have been thinking about Paul and the Christian religion. Do you know what I see? A minor religion was in the hands of a few fishermen. At that time the Greeks and Romans were two powerful races. The Jews were a subject race. Paul became the advocate of the ideas of these fishermen. Paul was a
learned fanatic, so he could overturn the Greek philosophy and Roman government. Mere religion and devotion doesn’t do the trick; there have to be fanatics. Do you know what I am? Paul was a learned fanatic and I want to create a band of learned fanatics. You see, just a fanatic is not enough – that is a kind of brain disease and makes much mischief. It must be a learned fanatic.” He got quite excited over this: everyone listened awestruck. So it is, many say, “What Paul was to Jesus, Vivekananda is to Ramakrishna.” After morning lecture one day Swamiji was slowly coming downstairs with Miss Muller. We have previously mentioned the unpleasantness between her and Swami Saradananda on a certain occasion. Swamiji was saying to her, in a soothing voice, but by way of chiding, “We are all monomaniacs. I am a monomaniac for my preaching of Vedanta; you are a monomaniac for your whims. The world is full of monomaniacs.” Miss Muller did not care for the cooking of the elderly housekeeper and began to make a fuss about it. One afternoon she grumbled and grumbled, got dressed up and went off to her relatives. Sturdy was not there that day. Swamiji became cross and said, “I can’t put up with it. Nothing but quarrels. As soon as the slightest thing goes wrong, she puts up a fuss. Let her stay with her family for a while; she will cool off and come back.” Once as they sat down to a meal Swamiji asked Goodwin to look in the diary to see if there was any engagement today. Goodwin saw that there was an invitation from a duke in Park Lane at this very hour. [Perhaps the Duke of Cambridge, one of Queen Victoria’s sons.] A terrible rush ensued, with everyone trying to get Swamiji ready. A carriage was called, etc. Goodwin was at his every beck and call, whirling like a spinning wheel. Then they sat down again to their meal. Goodwin raved about the split-peadal. “How delicious! I could eat this all my life,” etc. Swami Saradananda and Mohendra smiled to themselves. Swamiji returned very late at night. The next day he said to the other Swami, “Well, Sarat, have you noticed? Big and influential people of Calcutta come here, but nobody cares a fig for them. Do the dukes eat with them? By bringing many certificates they may succeed in meeting important people, whereas I am fed by invitation. And do you see? Before me they are struck all of a heap!” “I belong to the class of “teachers”, here – that is why I am honored. I move right in step with the rich, the high-born, the intelligentsia, like an Englishman. And don’t you see? I pound Vedanta into their bones. From now on they will see India with new eyes. They will hear about India with respect.” And he laughed softly. About half-past one or two o’clock he said to Fox: “Come on! Eating a monotonous diet every day is no good. Let us two go out and eat at a hotel.” One day after breakfast Swamiji was sitting in his own chair and others
around him. The subject of America came up. Goodwin said, “Our biggest meeting was in Detroit. Nearly six thousand people. That day your words came out with superhuman strength. I was mad with joy.” Swami replied, “In America, who are they who will help spread Vedanta?” Goodwin said, “I can count on my fingers the big people who used to attend the lectures in America.” Swamiji: “What about Tesla and Edison?” Goodwin: “Tesla would work out all right, but Edison would be utterly incompatible.” In this way the names of many noted persons were mentioned and who would be helpful and who would not. When he heard Goodwin’s opinion that the spread of Vedanta in America would be permanent, Swamiji became heartened and joyful. In 1895 in London many of the barber shops were operated by Germans, who would work for lower wages than the English. When Swamiji needed a haircut he would take with him some well-known person to the high-class English shops. Such barber shops were not open to the common man. All of them were like palaces. But they would serve Swamiji if he was accompanied by one of the elite. Again he made the comparison with the color-bar in American shops. It seems that once he got his toenails cut by one of the Hale Sisters. Chapter VI Goodwin loved every product of his own race. He would say to Mohendra, “Eat some strawberries! They are a very fine fruit, a really good thing.” Mohendra, like many Indians, saw nothing great about them. One day, from the fancy fruit market there came a pineapple. Swamiji was delighted and taught Goodwin how to peel it. After all had eaten it, Swamiji talked about pineapples. “This is a Chinese fruit; formerly it was not found in India. Probably the Portuguese or Dutch brought it in. It was called ‘ananas,’ which in time became ‘anaras.’ But now there are plenty in India; so fertile is Indian soil that many foreign fruits are grown in abundance.” At any rate, the Indians present were enraptured at tasting it. They say that even the cawing of crows of one’s own land is sweet to the ear. Once Swamiji talked to Deshai a lot about miracles. He said, “The Tantrik sadhus know how to distill wine. They were carrying wine in theirkamandalus when a village, getting the smell of wine, raised objection. Then the sadhus began to show their miracles. Pouring a little wine into some water with repetition of a mantra and posturing their bodies in many ways they
showed that the water had become like milk. Everyone was astonished. Sadhus can show many tricks like this. Because of this, true religion becomes a laughing-stock and people remain skeptical about sadhus. You see, one of Shivaji’s gurus was a sadhu. It was through his blessing that Shivaji prevailed. When Shivaji fought with the Moguls, his spies wearing gerrua like monks went about all over the land gathering information. There was no restriction on the movements of sadhus. From that time government is very suspicious of people wearing gerrua and they keep a sharp eye on them.” He told Deshai: “When I was wandering about in India I once took rest near a schoolroom (pathshala) where some children were studying grammar. I was sitting at a distance; they saw me but said nothing. They thought I would be taking some food and moving on; they would see me at mealtime. Hearing their mistakes in grammar, my ear took offense. Finally I could not stand it any longer and went over and corrected them. Now they began to spread my fame and press me to stay there. My mind was much depressed at that time, and I wanted to go to another place, so I had something to eat and moved off. Deshai, going around India I have seen what difficulty a sadhu has to get two grains of rice. The other day you asked me about hatha yoga. Do you understand what hunger there is there? I saw then what suffering there is in the land.” And Swamiji’s face lost all smile, became grave and he was stock-still with tears in his eyes. J.J. Goodwin on himself One day Goodwin began to talk to Swami Saradananda regarding his own life. They had lived in Frome [a bit south of Batheaston] and were tenants of the Marquis of Bath. Goodwin had a widowed mother and two unmarried sisters. They were supporting themselves somehow, and when he got money he would send it to his mother. He was then twenty-three or four years old and knew shorthand well. Work was not always available in one place, so he had wandered from England to Australia, then to America. Wherever he went he studied the local language. Goodwin said, “I have traveled wherever English is spoken. What else to do? A poor man from childhood, I have gone about trying to get my living. No patron do I have; I have been to many places, mixed with many people – they gave me work, gave the wages – but no one gave me his heart’s love. Then in America I met Swami Vivekananda. Then alone I could understand what love was. So, income or no income, I am trapped! I have been round the world, hob-knobbed with famous people, but never have I found such a noble being as Swamiji: one is drawn as if to one’s very own. “On the boat from Australia to Colombo I had no work. How to put in the time? So I began to dance. I would dance half the night. And I played cards and
gambled. Lost a lot of money.” Hearing all this Swami Saradananda said to Mohendra (in Bengali), “Even though Goodwin is Swamiji’s devotee, his English nature is very prominent. Cricket and football are his craze, gambling his vice. All the English weaknesses are in him.” Goodwin, hearing the talk, said,” It seems you are berating me in your own tongue?” Swami Saradananda replied that he was just talking about his gambling. Swami Vivekananda had heard about all that before. Referring to this he told Goodwin, “You were misnamed Goodwin; it should have been ‘Badwin.’ Goodwin shook his head and rolled his eyes. “I am not Bad-win,” he said, but Good-win, Good-win, Goodwin.” Swamiji laughed a bit and said, “You are a gambler, you are always thinking of that.” Swamiji’s portrait, and habits of dress Swamiji said that in America there was a married couple, both artists, short and plump of build; they used to go out on bicycles together, like friends, for painting pictures. They were very fond of him and sometimes would come and take him out on the contraption, sitting one on either side of him [tandem?] They would seat Swamiji between them somewhere and begin to paint his portrait. They would compete to see who could produce the greater likeness and thus eagerly would work at painting him. Swamiji would sit still until he was cramped, while they worked. He felt very happy to see their urge to be preeminent, and laughed while telling us about it. Goodwin was a real cut-up, making everyone laugh. Swamiji was always careful to learn the local customs and to follow them without defect, which is why he was so much respected. Once he told Mahendra not to come into the sitting room with his tie loosened and to change his collar twice a week. It seems to an Indian very extravagant. He paid so much attention to manners and customs that it is no wonder that people in America had said that, though he went about like a wandering monk, he was the child of an aristocrat – never forgetting an observance. He always shaved beard and moustache, and if he had an evening invitation to meal, he would shave again, change his collar, and comb and part his hair, and see that his shoes were shined. One morning Swamiji said, “In America now there will be scarcely a town of twenty or thirty thousand who will not know of me. And many will be very familiar. There are many students, too, but these proved to be “chips” and blew away [chela means both]. Only Goodwin stayed; I saw that fellow was without food. But there is a difference between the English and the Americans: as I see it, the Americans are very sociable, whereas the English don’t like to mix and can bite like white ants.” Then he changed the subject.
His coming to the West Another morning after breakfast Swamiji said to Swami Saradananda, “Do you see, I tried every opening: I tried teaching, I tried law; I found every door closed. Then I saw this path. This one opened for me and I found success in it. A man has to try all roads, to get one to open which will be fruitful.” “Well, he asked, “why do our countrymen die off so quickly? I ask about someone of whom I’ve had no news and I hear he has died. Will our race become extinct, I wonder? I saw in America eighty or ninety-year old people; sixty was “middleaged.” They live long, so do the English, but the Indians die. It is because their diet is so wretched. It must be changed. For a couple of years in America I had no illness – only a few colds. I slept like a log but the body did not suffer. The climate of that land is very good. And how they live! They don’t want to die, it seems. Such enthusiasm! Such perseverance. They move about with liveliness, while Indians do it passively, as if sitting down. All those Vedantic utterances I gave out to the people while I wandered through India, if they would have them; but their taking was a shambles – in fact, they began to berate me. I decided I will go to a free country and speak out these things. Without freedom no one will be able to receive it. I saw that there would be a meeting in Chicago. So I ran with all my might to be present in Chicago. It was those people who first appreciated the Vedantic ideas. India did nothing: she did not take it.” That day he voiced many such complaints. Vedanta as a universal religion On Sunday he had spoken at the R.I.P.W. Monday, after breakfast, Swamiji raised Vedanta topics with Sturdy. His mind was very expansive and he said, “This Vedanta philosophy was given out by the rishis of olden times. Then their hearts were great, their minds very cultured, so they spread it broadcast. Later, when the race fell, they cooped it up in a little corner. It fell into the hands of unworthy persons and became neglected. But now this Vedanta must be spread far and wide. Make it a universal property. The various religions go on talking about their respective devotions, personal ideals and customs and rituals, but no one talks about his philosophy. Vedanta concerns itself with philosophy, that which is not the property of any particular religion, so Vedanta will be the universal religion.” So saying he began to walk, and pulling on his pipe, waxed enthusiastic, repeating: “Make it a universal property; let it not fall into the hands of narrow-minded persons.” Goodwin and Miss Muller did not get along very well. In other words, she did not care much for him. There was no obvious reason; perhaps Swamiji was
especially fond of Goodwin and used him for all his work. One day Goodwin said to him, “It doesn’t seem to be so convenient, my staying here. It may be better if I live elsewhere and come in to work.” On hearing him Swamiji understood the whole matter, and, feeling very sad, said, “How will that work? My need is a twenty-four hour one; how will I manage if you aren’t here?” Goodwin replied, “What else to do, when I can’t get on with these people? But I have to eat! Going elsewhere I can manage by myself somehow. And I will come and take down the lecture notes.” Swamiji kept quiet. He said nothing but continued to look toward Goodwin from time to time. [Nowhere does Mohendra say that Goodwin actually left the house.] After Swamiji went out, Goodwin expressed to Mohendra some resentment against Miss Muller. “She is not British. She is a Chilean woman. Her father was a German who migrated to Chile by ship and made a fortune. Later, selling his factory (or business) for cash he came to England to live and left his money to his children.” Swami Saradananda so much disliked the regimentation of British life and having to change his habits, that he would sometimes say, “I came here to Naren, and I am about to die. I feel like running straight away.” An international incident The news appeared one morning in the paper that a young Chinese had come to London, and the Chinese ambassador had decoyed him into his own residence and forcing him to board ship and go back to China. Reading the news, Swamiji said to Goodwin, “What is this, Goodwin, isn’t this a free country? All are the same in freedom. Now where is your right of hospitality? This poor Chinese lad in the city of London is being maltreated. Where is your national ideal of liberty?” Goodwin jumped up, shook his fist, stamped his foot and became quite heated. He said, “Such behavior in England! Anyone setting foot on the soil of England becomes free from that moment. How wrong of the Chinese Ambassador! Doesn’t he know this is England? Many nihilists and anarchists and foes of the government of Russia are living in this country in freedom. Their meetings and newspapers etc. are being carried on: no one says anything. And this Chinese ambassador has taken the Chinese boy!” Sturdy said, “Even if there has to be a war with China over this, we are ready. I will become a soldier myself. It is a disgrace to England.” Then Lord Salisbury, M.P. had soldiers surround the Embassy and man all the docks. He wrote to the Ambassador to deliver the young man into his keeping. But Goodwin was hot all day and did no work, and bought newspapers. Swamiji’s face was very melancholy; he seemed to be brooding. Once in a while he would say something. “Powerful people treat poor people in
this way.” Even when he did not speak, one knew his every thought by his face. Then Goodwin delightedly brought the news that the boy had been freed. [Mohendra says that he, Mohendra, later made acquaintance with this boy in the British Museum Library. The young man was the future Sun-yat Sen]. Scandal of Mrs. Dyer One day the newspaper informed that a Mrs. Dyer of Reading would be hanged. [She was an elderly woman who for some years had taken under her “care” the illegitimate babies of “high society,” along with the money for their keep – then disposed of them in the Thames River. Biggest scandal of the day.] Swamiji read it and said to Sturdy, “The Thames water has become babies soup!” Then, “I see that the society is rotten. This baby-murder goes on in house after house. A race begins to rot from the inside first: then comes an enemy and conquers it. If this race goes on in this way, its fall is assured, I see. From social evil every evil eventuates.” Sturdy said, “Swamiji, English society is going rotten inside; as outward enjoyment increases, in such measure does inner corruption increase too. In this country the standard of living is high, and human nature will be what it is; so there is much social evil.” Swamiji remained in a mood of disgust that day. At this time Max Muller’s essay entitled “A Real Mahatma” appeared in the well-known journal Nineteenth Century. He had brought out a life of Sri Ramakrishna, as mentioned before. The former Presidency College Principal, Mr. Tawney, had written and published an article in a paper of the time about Sri Ramakrishna. Because of Swami Vivekananda’s London speeches and his mixing with the “big people,” there began to be some discussion of Ramakrishna in academic circles. At Kankhal in 1917 the famous Aswini Kumar Datta told Mohendra that he and Prof. Tawney wrote that the latter tries to read “M.”sKathamrita in Bengali, but cannot make it out in many places because of the village dialect. Yet he reads it daily just like the Bible. Aswini told this with great joy. One afternoon Swamiji was sitting in the parlor with Sturdy and others. Swamiji said, “See how advanced the Germans are in science.” (Then he described their use of a fielding system for sewage water. Coming out on the other side of a field, the water was quite pure and even fit to drink.) Chapter VII It was now summer. One afternoon Swamiji, Sturdy, Goodwin, Swami Saradananda, Fox and Mohendra were sitting together. In the newspapers there came as special news the description of the coronation of Czar Nicholas II.
Goodwin was reading aloud. In commemoration of the coronation many classes of subjects had a year’s rents (taxes) nullified, and enameled cups bearing the coronation year stamped on them, were to be given away to innumerable persons, for which great preparations had been made. Poor people had flocked to Moscow in hope of an enameled cup. But the crowd was so vast, the police could make no arrangement for controlling them and fired on them and many died. Finally the Superintendent of Police shot himself. Everyone was dumbfounded by this news. Shortly Sturdy said, “Excusing back taxes – it is an empty gesture. Whatever is done, the magnates will fill their stomachs, the commoners will go to the wall; rather, extra taxes will be levied. It is a barbaric, intolerable race, knowing nothing of government. They rule by oppression alone. He said much more, about the good government of England and poor government of others. Goodwin said, “This is very wicked behavior. If it happened in England we would challenge it.” Swamiji had till now remained silent in his chair and as if sunk in deep thought. His face was serious, his eyes wide and filled with sadness. Suddenly he said, “What misery! What suffering! For the sake of one cup all those people left their villages and came to the city and so many shot! How poor the country is. They are starving. They have given their lives for a two-bit enameled glass. Will the Czar’s coronation be remembered as a festival of joy or a catastrophe of carnage? And this happened right in front of the Czar! How sad.” And he began to walk the floor.` Goodwin’s patriotism Edward VII was then Prince of Wales. A horse of his named “Persimmon” won the Derby race. England is a racing country, the fact that a horse of the Prince should win the race made a big stir. Everyone was overjoyed. Goodwin became excited and talked a lot about horse-racing, which did not please the others. He said the name Persimmon time after time. Swamiji was walking back and forth and began to make faces, saying “Persimmon” in mockery of Goodwin. The latter, who understood Swamiji’s every mood, got down on his knees and with folded hands pleaded, “Swamiji, whatever ridicule or teasing has to be done, please do it to poor Goodwin. Poor Goodwin is your disciple, your servant; but please do not say anything against the Royal Family; that is considered very censurable in this country. Have pity on me.” Hearing his words all were bemused. This Goodwin was supposed to be a dyed-in-the-wool radical, and here was such unswerving devotion to the Royal Family! At one point Swamiji and Sturdy were discussing the clergy of America. Swamiji said, “The clergy of America only go about with plans for raising money. Faith, devotion – these things are not in them. Just as the industrialists
of America go around making money, so is the preoccupation of their clergy. Where Jesus showed his grand renunciation and wandered about with a single garment taking the name of God, these priests only raise money. I gave a good preaching to the preachers. They got miffed at me, but the rest of the people were pleased, because on one has dared to reproach them before.” Sturdy said: “The Christian religion has become utterly corrupted; it has become just a military and commercial religion. Its business now is war and commerce. Such religion will no longer stand in the world. The whole thing must be thrown out and a new religion established. The Vedanta is the only religion that will work.” A gentleman came to meet Swamiji who, while talking with him, said from time to time,” Do you not think such-and-such?” as if his matured opinion must be Swamiji’s also. No one need do any thinking for himself, but should expound this man’s idea and nothing else. Swamiji heard him in silence and with a grave face. At last, after a few words the Swami dismissed him, and told Sturdy, “This is a bad way of conversing. He uses a patronizing tone. So I did not engage him much in talk.” Sturdy said that many have this fault. One day a man came and told Swamiji all his most intimate affairs. Many did this with him. It seemed to console them. They reckoned him as one of their family and never thought, “Oh, this is a foreigner; I should not mix with him.” Goodwin was interested in politics and always was talking about “one man, one vote.” One day there was a knock at the door. Mohendra followed Goodwin to the door, saw there a peasant in boots. Mohendra noticed that Goodwin spoke with him at the door. Later he asked Goodwin why he had not asked the man to come in, and was told, “He belongs to the laboring class.” Then Mohendra thought of how Goodwin said everyone was equal in England. Swami Saradananda commented that politics is in the very bones of the British. Goodwin kept his mouth shut around Swamiji. So when the latter was out, he made use of that opportunity to talk politics with the others. He favored abolition of the House of Lords (but not of the Monarchy). Swamiji’s conversations On the morning following a dispute between Swami Vivekananda and an Englishman at the evening discourse (to be reported on in Part II) Swamiji was very late getting up. His mind being upset, he had taken Goodwin for a long walk along the street. His eyes were swollen from the night’s chill. In his dressing gown and slippers he usually came to eat breakfast at nine or ninethirty. After food he would sit in his easy- chair and talk long with Goodwin about religion and the American lectures, but today suddenly his subject and tone were different. He spoke of India’s wars. For on the night’s walk he had
spoken of this continuously. So he was still talking history. He said that when the English first came to Madras, the French were the ascendant race. They had exceptional prowess in war and government. The native Muslims and French banded together and surrounded Arkat Castle. The British had only a few native soldiers. Battle gradually increased; slowly the British were hard put and many died. Their supplies gave out etc. But their native sepoys were so generous and noble that they said, “We are natives: we can live on very little.” And, cooking rice, they gave it to the British and themselves lived on the rice water. Some days went by. A Marathi commander, making with his army and encampment at a distance, was much impressed at the sight of the heroism and said he could not but go to the aid of people who could so skillfully survive, and he advanced with his party. Maharashtra was powerful then. When the Muslims and the French heard he was aiding the beleaguered, they withdrew and the Englishmen’s lives were saved. “Your race disregards this event, this nobility and heroism of the Hindus and oppresses them. Even though saved from the mouth of death you now make various types of oppression over them. Your race has no appreciation, you are self-seeking ungrateful people. That is why the peoples of the world do not have faith in you.” When Goodwin would boast of the courage of British soldiers, Swamiji would tell him other nice stories of this kind. “You see,” he said, “this is through ‘hypnotizing,’ this control which a few Britishers have over the Indians, sitting on their chests and sucking their blood. But the day that hypnotism is dispelled and the Indians understand their own inner strength, they will squeeze you like a lemon” – showing such a gesture with his fist. His estimate of the English “Do you know why your country still survives? The French were a great race, who worked like heroes. But they had one weakness: the officers, the ministers, could be bribed by foreigners against their own people. They betrayed them in battle. So the French race fell. I see a thousand faults in your people; you may be cruel and self-seeking, but you have one great quality: very strong love for the race. There is no betrayal. This alone is what has preserved you. If you ever lose that you will fall apart in a few days, and will revert to being barbaric.” The question came up of the Mogul Empire. Why did such a great empire fall? Swamiji used to say it was conquered by its own wickedness. When Sir Thomas Rowe went as British envoy to the court of Jehangir he wrote that when the Mogul emperor moves from one place to another, a whole
city goes with him. Whatever classes of people live in the city, the same must go and stay at the Badshah’s encampment. Several thousand persons go with the camp and it lacks nothing. Even bathing facilities are a big affair. The magnificence and majesty of the Mogul Emperor was unrivalled and was the reality imagined by poets. Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb outdid Jehangir. The number of soldiers became so great that it began to be unmanageable. The soldiers began to loot the villages. This is the way oppression of the populace developed. From all this luxury and because of the army, the cost of government became insupportable and under pressure collapsed. The British were becoming greedy rulers and were trying to cover a vast empire of ever-expanding perimeter. But they are not a sufficiently vigilant and supervising people. Often there is news of uprising. A few selfish British ministers are bringing such a big empire under their control, incurring the expense of more and more armed forces. “It will crumble to pieces out of sheer weight.” Chapter VIII Swamiji’s comparison of Indian and English fighters There was a discussion about the fighting between England and China. Goodwin said that the British Empire had been established by the heroism of the British themselves, and for this reason they would preserve it. Swamiji showed a little annoyance and began to tell the true history. “What have the British done in the China war or any other war? Our Indian soldiers have gone everywhere and fought, and spilt their blood in building this empire and handed the victory to the British. This great empire has come into being through Indian blood and Indian money. What have you British done? Indians earned the profit you are eating up. Who fought in Egypt? It was our soldiers. Your empire has grown so big; wherever you have been successful, the Indian soldiers have fought. They have poured their blood like water and their money without stint so you have got a big empire. How many British were in the battle of Plassy? All were our countrymen and they defeated the British. When has your race showed courage in battle? Cowards themselves, by hypnotizing others, they lord it over the world. Remember it – some day the British Empire will become the Indian Empire. Just as the Romans conquered Spain, Germany, Greece etc. and later Spaniard and Germans came and sat as Roman emperors – so will it be with you.” Goodwin could not take this and said, “No, Swami, your men do not know how to fight.” Swamiji, becoming more heated, replied, “Our Indians don’t know how to fight? When Alexander of the Greeks conquered Persia and,
swollen with pride, invaded India, who first opposed him? It was a Hindu king, Porus, who satisfied his thirst for battle. In the battle of Arbela an Indian army helped the Persian Emperor Darius a great deal. That is why Alexander decided to fight with the Indians. You say our Indians don’t know fighting! From time out of mind Indians have been famous for their prowess. But they don’t know the treachery of the British people, that ingratitude. Don’t you know? During the Mutiny the soldiers said, “For many days we have eaten the salt of the British; now they are in danger, they cannot survive.” So they, through nobility, again set up the foreign government. The Hindus have a chivalrous spirit. And you, this race you call so great and boast of, you have taken India by swindles. You didn’t even have a pillow under your head: you were a poor, worthless race. You were laggers-behind in European history. The French were the foremost. It was only by acquiring India, India’s wealth, that you grew strong. But when the Indians shake off their delusion and wake up from inner sleep, they will squeeze you like a lemon.” Goodwin now insisted: “You are a great man, no doubt, but your men do not know how to govern themselves. We, the British people, are the best men to govern India.” Swamiji then got more excited and told him how Chandragupta’s Megasthenes had reported the good panchayat system, the absence of theft, the people’s regard for truth etc., and it was no exaggeration. He also said that wherever the British influence has not penetrated and native rule still prevails, the people are happier and disturbance is less. The British seek only to enrich their own land. “And still you say what you say.” Swamiji told Goodwin that in the course of conversation a few days before, with a General, he had said this about the British having needed India and its wealth to raise their status, and the General himself had said that it was the acquisition of India which gave the British expansion in all directions. Goodwin knew little of Indian history or even ancient British; he read the papers. So what he learned from Swamiji surprised him. Of course he protested at pronouncements such as these, but through such arguments his faith and sraddha in Swami Vivekananda grew more sincere. On the Indian “Congress” Swamiji was in this mood for a few days. Talking with Swami Saradananda about “Congress” [the early promoters of self-government], he said, “Why are the Indian people raising such a fuss about this ‘Congress!, Congress?’ What use is there in a few noisy persons gathering in a place to beat their gums? Let them sit down, declare ‘From today we are self-governing.’ Let them send this declaration. Then see the hue and cry. Most people don’t even know there is in
the world, a country called India. Why has America got a response throughout the world? Is it just a matter of kicking up a fuss? One must work on without anxiety. I want to work through due process (lawfully) and if any bullets hit the chest, let them hit mine first of all!” he said, pacing the floor. “Let the bullets rain on my chest; America, Europe – they will feel the shake, they will then understand what Vivekananda is! If my blood spills there will be a world-wide reaction. Let Congress make an outright Declaration of Independence. Sitting and whining like old women – what will that do?” Swami Saradananda and Mohendra heard in silence. Then he spoke of the oppression of the barbaric Russian government, and how the Tartar tribes had given a lot of trouble, but were now under control because of the terribly strict administration of the Russians. He noted that the Russian lands are all together in one place. It is not so convenient for the British in this respect, since, unlike the Russians their territory is broken up into little pieces and they have to manage that. Swamiji often used to say that a composite empire like this could never hold together long. The East India Co. and The Indian Mutiny The subject of the Mutiny came up again. Swamiji said, “The administration by the East India Co. was very bad at first. They ignored [the British] Parliament and everything else. This commercial company got a vast empire. Were they out to do business or to establish rule? At first, gain was their sole object, and their waywardness had that object. Gradually even the Indian sepoys got annoyed. But there was no single leader for them. The Mussalmans wanted to make the Delhi emperor strong again. The Hindus got excited and wanted to make a government under Bajirao’s son, Nanasaheb. Other petty princes tried to come forward to be independent. No one would listen to anyone else. The sepoys had learned the English method of warfare but had neither leader nor supplies. At last they began to loot for a handful of rice, even from their own Government. Hindus and Muslims began to pillage each other. The sepoys fell into such a condition that for obtaining provisions they had to sell their strings of pearls. The British, getting this opportunity, armed new native sepoys, subdued the Mutiny and conquered India again. As a result of the mismanagement of the East India Company the administration was transferred to Parliament. Then much more method and order came, but the humiliation and scorn were as much, only of a different sort. Inventiveness in America One day in conversation Swamiji spoke about the wheels of horse carriages.
“Staying in America for several years I saw that America creates new things in every field. And I have been around and seen many places in Europe; everything is old and antiquated — smudgy, ugly things. In all America I saw smart, novel things, whether in building, in shoes, in dress, shirt buttons – there everything is clean and neat, all of a new type. I decided that in the race there is a vigorous living power. And in England everything is of an old type. I saw the American horse carriage wheels: thin, very fine, looking as if when you pressed them they would break, but so strong and durable. Do you know how they do it? [Then he describes the pressuring of the seasoned wood.] They are clean and light. It brought delight and upliftment to the heart to see American products. They are demonstrating the power of Man.” Swamiji became ebullient. To Mohendra he said, “Go. Go to America. What will you get out of England? There is a new country of new enthusiasm; seeing it your mind will expand and a new mentality will come. No new idea comes to this old place. If one wishes to do something in his own way he must see America. People staying in an old country get antiquated – no new idea comes to them at all.” He talked about food and said it was a very old custom to eat onions with meat. In Polish “Pol” means meat, and Polish “with meat, another name for onions. He said fried onions were indigestible and gave stomach trouble, but boiled they were useful and cleared the bowels, hence so widely consumed. Swamiji as a singer Swamiji, on days when he was feeling happy, would hum Bengali songs. Goodwin could not understand them nor did the tunes please him. One day after breakfast Swamiji went upstairs where Goodwin, Swami Saradananda and Mohendra were. The conversation was about Indian music and with Swami Saradananda some talk of Indian and European music began. The gist of it was that in India there are big singers and their methods of singing also are of different types. Swami Saradananda tried to make this clear. Among those in Calcutta who specialize in drupad style Swamiji knew one big one in particular. Goodwin could not follow. Swami Saradananda easily made him understand that Swamiji was a fine singer and was reckoned among the best in Calcutta. Goodwin, much surprised, clapped his hands. “Why, I never knew that!,” he exclaimed. “I knew he was a great philosopher and a great speaker but never knew that he was a singer!” And he expressed his joy in various gestures, so happy he was to add the least glory to Swami Vivekananda. A Swedish or Norwegian scientist named S.A. Andree was going with some companions up in a balloon to explore the Arctic. A lot was written of this in the papers. When all the others were talking of it one afternoon, Swamiji was silent. Goodwin and Sturdy were praising the people and the idea, saying it
would mean the opening of a new passage in the world, etc., but Swamiji said nothing and seemed a bit depressed. He only said, “They will go by balloon, no doubt, but there is no certainty that they will come back.”[This prediction had been voiced by several experts]. Hearing this all were taken aback and the happiness they had felt was dissipated. The fact that there is another side to every affair was realized by all and they remained silent. As it happened, Andree and party never returned and nothing was heard of them. [Thirty-three years later three corpses were found on White Island along with Andree’s diary.] Part II (Part II is not divided into chapters) Analysis of “Duty” On duty and love. One day in the course of his lecture Swami Vivekananda began to speak to his audience in a new vein. “There is in English the word duty, meaning that work which one is obliged to do. Westerners do all their work impelled by this idea. Some powerful man, getting a weaker one under his control through fear or hope of gain, intimidates him. In all this work, whether such a person wants to do it or not, there is no consideration, as a lord giving orders to his slave takes his service without making any study of how he feels about it. “Duty expresses this idea about work. But Indians think differently about it. Their idea is to work with love. It is love that is the motive power of work. Sanskrit has no word corresponding to the former idea of duty, because the Hindus never thought of it in that way. Love means self-expansion or self-emanation. in any object or work the Self or I is seen in unmanifest or manifested form. So for the gain of that object or that work, the soul exerts itself. What is called in English the incentive for action, or the desire to be impelled to work – the purpose is to get one’s own image into the thing. “All work is to be done through love. It is only through love that the mother goes fearlessly to give her life to save her child in danger. There is a bargaining mentality in “duty.” One person is doing work as if like a corpse or inert matter. It is like a commercial proposition. The Hindus’ idea is different. They are eager to love or to see the Atman in the object, so they try to do all work through love, not commercial mentality. It is love that is the road to action. “Why am I distressed at the suffering of another?” was the subject matter to one of Swamiji’s lectures. “European philosophers have written a lot of
different ideas about this. One section of them say, ‘This fate may be mine in the future, so I must be ready to sympathize and try to remedy it or ward it off.’ No higher ideal than this is present. Another group says, ‘Without this mutual aid society will fall into disorder. Fellow-feeling among neighbors will disappear and the power to do cooperative work will dwindle.’ This is the reason given for sympathy.” Then he began to show the profound ideas of the Hindu sastras. “The Hindu idea is different. It sees that within every soul and object there is the one Brahman. It is Brahman which has manifested in a thousand forms, covered with various veils such as objects, souls and living beings.’ All-pervadingness expounded Another day he said, “In the whole creation there is a continuity or sequence. I see something as a gross object but its subtle aspect is covering it. This subtle form is encased in another, very fine form. Finally, I feel that I am different from, or cut off from that which puts me in touch with, or joins me to, the whole of creation up to the heavens; then fear or depression come into the human heart. Not being able to understand, oftentimes, due to our weakness, we become cut off (so we think) and fear is introduced. But when I see that I exist in the gross and I am in touch with all on the subtle plane, and I am united with all, and gradually that I extend to subtler and subtler worlds, into the whole of sky, the firmament, the sun, outer space – then ananda enters my heart, and courage comes. If one body is destroyed, I remain in another. The dissolution of one body means that the molecules of one center have become separated but they are joined up with another center. If we can get this idea, then there is no worry about death. While one portion is being disintegrated another portion or form is being integrated elsewhere. This vibration or impulse extends pervading the whole creation and fashions it accordingly. In the midst of this vibrational continuum no spot can remain empty or void. ‘Nature abhors a vacuum.’ A few days before, Swamiji had been filled with the scientific spirit. That is why on all these days, whatever he explained was expounded from a scientific standpoint. We used to see that whatever mood he was absorbed in, according to that the lecture would be; in a bhakti mood he spoke devotional things; jnana likewise. Whatever stories he had heard in childhood from his mother or grandmother, he would tell; sometimes he would repeat these from memory, but the direction of application would be his own, original. Always he would lose himself in the subject. No occasion for low-mindedness or petty anxiety was ever to be found in him. Thinker and thought seemed to become one, and it
was difficult to say which was uppermost, so much was he one with what he spoke. “The universe is one undifferentiated mass of energy. If any new thing formed outside the creation, it would not have any place in the universe. Because the universe is all-pervading, there is no split or gap in it anywhere.” Sometimes he spoke so far over the heads of the audience that no one could follow. Mohendra remembers a lecture in which he said, “Every point is a center, but nowhere is the center.” No one seemed to understand. Once he recounted the experiment of a professor. In the pursuit of truth, before he reached what he was after, he saw a new thing: it was as if a completely new truth was staring him in the face. Utterly still, unmoving for a moment, uttering prolonged sighs, the professor said, “It is all one great Void!” Swamiji said “Ordinary people, unable to understand this Fullness describe it as a void.” The term Hiranyagarbha Another day: “Hiranya-garbha: this idea was current among the Hindus from ancient times. This entity has been revered for a long time as an aspect of manifestation of God. Hiranyagarbha stands between the manifest and the Unmanifest. We can comprehend the former, but the manifest does not emerge totally from the Unmanifest. This state of transition or Point of Polarization is call Hiranyagarbha. What the unmanifest condition is, we cannot get by using speech or the power of thought etc., but we understand that it is. Mentation intimates, as a glimpse, that unmanifested state. But we cannot perceive this by cogitation. This intermediate ground is called Hiranyagarbha.” In fact, his lectures were not something to hear or understand; they were the concretization of ideas before one’s very eyes. He had an extraordinary power to make explicit the series of ideas which were being given out. Swamiji and his audience were detached from their bodies for the time being, so to speak, and he made them see these things directly. He had acquired a great surplus of this power; that is why he touched and seized upon the heart so much, in his lectures. That is why one can remember in this way what he said, even now. There is a vast difference between hearing his lecture and reading his books. Explaining the subject of meditation one day Swamiji said, “Everything we see in the sense-bound world, its picture is on our conscious plane. Every moment new ideas, my knowledge of previously known objects – all are going from the conscious plane down to the subconscious where they stay for a long time. They rise again to the conscious when they get a fit stimulus. When we are drawn in toward the Inner Self, leaving the gross body for the subtle, that is
the superconscious, and when time, space and causation are left far behind, then the idea or the perception is seen in all clarity, this is superconsciousness. Lectures on Raja Yoga He particularly used to say, “I don’t believe in anything called miracles. There is a demonstrable cause for every event and that cause has it corresponding effect or manifestation. It is Raja Yoga that gives the diagnosis of the subtle causes. Even if I have not performed all the feats of Raja Yoga, I have come to the conclusion, about what I have done, that all that is written there is believable.” That is why he used to say (when questioned), “The book says so. The yogis of old following a method and being assured, have written all that. Have some gentlemanly faith [written in English].” “In Raja Yoga some ignorant person suddenly stumbling upon a truth made a big fuss over it to other untutored people, and ordinary folk all took it as a work of wonder and miracle. But Raja Yoga is a scientific system. Its every dictum was tested by experiment and all can try it for themselves.” The Raja Yoga series began. It was very crowded. Previously Swamiji had fascinated his audience with Bhakti Yoga, recounting episodes from the Puranas. But when they were able to grasp that, he returned to his own favorite them, expounding and explaining the Advaitavada. When he had first told them about the various preliminaries of the Raja Yoga, he would make them concentrate and gradually and imperceptibly lift their minds to the highest plane of meditation. We mentioned elsewhere that one evening he had said, “I am in the sun, I am in the moon, I am everywhere in the earth.” This lecture was of a very high order. His audience became utterly absorbed in the explanation of how the ego, now identified with this miserable little body, can feel itself all-pervading. This brought a new conception far beyond the Christian one. Another day he had said, “I am a voice without form.” And another day, “Personal God is a big superstition.” One part of this lecture was about our being hypnotized. He said, “In spite of the marvelous innate power that is in us, we are always surprised by our own strength, like one hypnotized. Forgetting the Atman we always suppose ourselves weak. But when we come to know the power of the Atman, or have the sleeping Atman awakened, this befuddled condition departs and we manifest our own lion-like strength.” Nearly all that Swamiji said in the R.I.P.W. gallery has come out in book form, i.e., Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. So I need not repeat it here [but will add a little more.] “If I meditate on the brains of a Buddha, I become a Buddha; if on the brains of a Sankara, I become a Sankara.” (Speaking of his own
method of inspiration): “Somebody never seen before appears and stands before me; I see and speak with him; nothing of what is said is my own.” From these few words we can understand to what a high state Swamiji was raised up. He used to call this ‘visualizing the idea’ – he would clearly see the ideas at the time of giving the lecture Phenomena connected to Swamiji’s Lectures After Sunday lectures he would either go home or go elsewhere with Sturdy. When they would arrive there on Sunday afternoon Swamiji would chat and joke with his acquaintances like one come to hear the discourse. There would be no sign of the fact that he was the speaker, no sort of nervousness could be seen. At the hour appointed Swamiji would enter the large hall. [Same description as before]. His voice slowly grew louder, the tones coming in waves of authority and certainty. The expression by his hands, in speaking, was something peculiar to him as a speaker; it was particularly attractive and authoritative. Such is possible for a trained and skilful actor, but not usually for a non-professional. Often it was seen that Swamiji, coming down from the platform, would go up to Goodwin and gently and anxiously ask him, “Goodwin, I must be crazy, what was wrong? What was I seeing, standing in space before me? I saw that and my heart palpitated. I can’t make head or tail of it. Won’t people say I am crazy? You know, they are British and I am an Indian – a subject race. Take good care of me, lest they call me crazy and pelt me on the street!” He sounded a bit pathetic, like a child. Goodwin would be surprised and say, “Swamiji, today you spoke beautifully.” Like a child, then, Swamiji would ask, “What did I say? What did I say?” Then Goodwin would report to him the lecture of that day. Amazed, Swamiji would say, “What does it mean?” When given the meaning he would say, “Write and keep all this. I like it very much.” It was as if he were a child or young man who had heard something inspiring. He often used to say, “I am really a crazy man. Is there anything in my head? Yet in front of me stands a living picture; its hand and mouth move and my heart throbs when I see it. I cannot make head or tail of it. I am the same old booby.” Goodwin has a problem; Swamiji’s solution Out of necessity for a worker in America, Swamiji instructed Swami Saradananda to prepare to go there. The latter was at first unwilling because after many years he had got Swamiji’s company, of which he was very fond, and did not wish to give this up. In the end he had to go. Goodwin’s financial position was not good. He usually ate in the house and
sometimes would go to a hotel. Swamiji gave him money. One morning Swamiji, the other Swami, Goodwin and Mohendra were sitting together. Sturdy and Miss Muller were not present and Goodwin, sensing his opportunity, spoke his mind. He said with sadness that those two did not care for him and did not like sharing the lodgings. So he felt he must eat outside, and having no money and no contacts in London, he could not make his living as a stenographer here. He had many friends in the United States. If he were to go there he would be able to meet his own expenses. Swamiji, hearing him, said sadly, “Why? Why not try here?” Goodwin replied, “Yes, of course I could, but if I have to work outside for three or four hours, how will your affairs go on? How will you manage?” Swamiji kept glum and silent. His thoughts could clearly be understood from his face. Goodwin, understanding Swamiji’s thought again expressed himself. “Why are you worried, Swamiji? By staying outside and working a couple of hours I will get my living. I’ll take a room and board nearby and come at lecture time, and whenever I get leisure, I’ll come and do your work. It is now uncomfortable for me to stay here. They also don’t like it, and I think I should go elsewhere.” Swamiji said nothing in particular, and Goodwin spent three or four days outside. One morning Swamiji said to him, “Sarat is going to America. Go with him. Sarat is a new man and doesn’t know American customs. If you stay with him you can give him much help. Goodwin replied, “But I have no means of subsistence over there!” Swamiji: “You won’t need to worry about that. I will arrange it.” At first Goodwin was not willing to take any money; then he agreed when Swamiji repeatedly said, “Take Mohan with you. All three of you go together. Compared to London, in New York there are many subjects to study. There is constantly a powerful independence there, whereas in London men are not so courageous. There is another advantage: if you stay there in the house of a certain person, every care will be taken of you.” Here he mentioned the American preoccupation with electricity (“America is full of electricity.”) He had the desire that Indians should study that science in the United States and bring it to India. Then the country would be beautified (or benefited) – this was his firm conviction. For this he told Mohendra again and again to go to America and study electricity. But at that time Mohendra was enamored of the famous Reading Room of the British Museum and therefore unwilling to leave it. Goodwin put a lot of effort into trying to get Mohendra to accompany then. Sometimes by sweet words, sometimes by scolding or by joking and teasing he tried to get him to change his mind. Goodwin said, “If you stay here I will kill you! Come on! Come to a new country and see what fun. I will get you work
with Edison. I’m acquainted with a friend of his.” Sometimes Swami Saradananda would say sadly, “What, Mohim! I am in London, hearing Swamiji’s lectures; now I have to leave and go off to America. And there I shall have to lecture! I know I have not studied anything. Anyway, I shall, as Swamiji has commanded, salute Thakur, stand up and try to say something. If it proves all right, I will stay awhile. If not, I run away to Calcutta. Why all this nuisance? I will beg my food some place. How did this lecturing business get into my head? I have never given a lecture in my life, but I will try to stand up and speak. And I am quite used to getting abuse. I will get it again. But when Naren has spoken, let me give it a try.” Mohendra’s candid account of Swamiji’s moods Something must be said here about the petulant moods of Swamiji. All day and half the night he would work tirelessly. Many times he said, “The way I work is enough to drive ten men crazy. That I am still sane even now is miracle!” So from time to time he displayed moods of irritation. No one else could keep pace with (or cope with) his tremendous power. Sometimes it would be Swami Saradananda, sometimes Mohendra, sometimes Goodwin, to whom he would give unbearably sharp scolding. As soon as he felt, for various reasons, bodily fatigue, he would use this sort of harsh language, but a little later, forgetting the whole thing, he would regain his normal mood. No one else would store up that biting utterance either, but then again no one argued with him. All those who had the good fortune to live with Swamiji were accustomed to that. This was a special feature of his nature. For, when the power of a mighty person meets a little obstruction an unusual pain comes over his body or mind and he feels angry, but this abates shortly. It is no permanent anger. It is necessary for us to know about this matter, otherwise the portrait of Swami Vivekananda will be incomplete. This is clearly indicated in many places in his letters. [Here Mohendra cites the letters of St. Paul to show similar behavior.] Swamiji was not endowed with “dasya bhava”; he was the dictator type. He always said, “My people, my country.” He acted in the singular, not in the plural. With the anger-less calm, soft, polite attitude of a Bengali devotee, no one can understand Swami Vivekananda. Off to America Soon the day for going to America drew near. Swami Saradananda packed his things ready in a portmanteau. Swamiji gave Goodwin some pounds. The ship was to sail from Liverpool to New York. All arrangements were made. Swamiji said, “It would be better for Mohendra to go to a new country. This is
a very old, conservative place. Everything has a contracted air about it, old ways are current.” Then he went away and Goodwin tried to play Swami Vivekananda with Mohendra. One day Goodwin put on a shirt given him by Swamiji (reaching from neck to knees). Swami Saradananda wound a turban around Goodwin’s head. Looking in the mirror, seeing that he was looking much like an Indian, he was jubilant. Suddenly he remembered that as he was leaving London, he must meet and argue with the elderly housekeeper. He loved a joke; so he went to the basement and said to the housekeeper, “I am a jnani – a jnani, not a bhakta!” At first she did not recognize him. After ruffling her up a bit he returned. The next morning Swami Saradananda and Goodwin left Liverpool on their journey to the United States. Goodwin’s mind being much drawn to jnana, his sannyasi name was Jnanananda [No mention is made of any sannyasa ceremony.] What Swami Saradananda later told Mohendra about the American visit is being related here. “Well, brother, I had not studied much and had never given a lecture, but because of Naren’s insistence I had to do it. Then again he might get so angry he could even hit someone in front of everyone. How could I lecture in English? Even my speaking in it is halting. I decided if it didn’t come out right I would go right off home via Japan. But when he has said it, I would raise my voice like the secondary singer in a singing party. Then it came to me that Goodwin was having books printed. On the ship I took his proofs and sat as if for examination. I began calling earnestly on Thakur and made this prayer: whatever may happen to me, let Naren not lose face, for it is he who is sending me and if the work goes wrong, he will be blamed. “We reached New York duly. Goodwin took care of everything. We went to Mrs. Ole Bull’s house in Cambridge. She was of Swedish [Norwegian]American descent. She gave me her book, Memoirs of Ole Bull. Swami Saradananda’s American “debut” In her house was held a small Conference of Religions, to which many important people were invited. The famous philosopher Prof. [Wm.] James and many other notables came to meet Swami Saradananda. They respected him highly and he had plenty of influence. Seeing his steadymindedness, gentleness and politeness everyone accepted and became fond of him. In one or two letters written to Sturdy and Fox at this time there is written: “Though he has not the brilliance of Vivekananda, he is a sadhu (of the three qualities mentioned above). Later: “Everyone is especially fond of him.” Swami Saradananda once told Mohendra, “In one place there was a very big meeting in a tent [Greenacre?]. I was not accustomed to speaking to such a big gathering and was a bit nervous. Goodwin was with me and was a spirited fellow. He began to encourage me in various ways. And I did, in fact, talk in
that way. Everyone listened eagerly and with deep attention. You can imagine Goodwin’s joy! And he said I had spoken in the same mood as the Gita and the Chandi. Gradually exhausting all my ideas, I got into a scrape. If I said the same thing over and over, who would listen? I called hard on Thakur and after a few days an unlimited enthusiasm arose in my heart. I lectured in a new vein and the place was crowded. My mouth opened up. Money came too. I thought I had better stay on a few years. But what was my fate? Your big brother spoiled everything. Suddenly a letter came from Belur Math telling me to return to Calcutta with certain ladies. Goodbye lectures, everything gone to pieces. I don’t know lecturing. I don’t know work either; to carry out Swamiji’s orders is my raison d’être. I have done my job.” From this bit of conversation it can be well understood what a great faith Swamiji had in this Swami, who would have considered it highly reprehensible to go against his word. Prestige, name, position were nothing to him. Such sincere love for Swamiji has seldom been seen. Moreover he was willing and persevering under all circumstances. Because he was steady and courteous he never showed his own will or power. If anything was brought up about himself, he would bury all that under his humility. This was his special greatness. He showed it time after time throughout his life. Recollections of Raja Yoga lectures Now to the twice-a-day lectures on Raja Yoga. Goodwin took them all down. Although Swamiji had a translation of the Yoga Sutras together with brief written commentaries, when he gave the lectures an independent commentary and ideas of his own would come out. The sound of his voice, the look of his face, the glance of his eyes – all were his own. Very profound, sweet, commanding, endearing – all different from what was seen at the lecture time. He became of such unusual appearance, no one had the capacity to look him in the face for long. It wasn’t Bengal’s Narendranath Dutt any more. There was a great power named Vivekananda in that body. Let no one suppose that Swamiji had made his Raja Yoga explanations by appropriate forethought. Anyone who assumes that idea has not known or understood him at all; rather, he will have formed a completely false notion of him. Swamiji at every point would say, “I never preach what I do not practice.” It was not that he just told the people about his Brahmajnana, his experience beyond the senses; he made them feel, in some measure, all these things, with his teaching. Coming to hear Swamiji’s Raja Yoga lectures and sitting still for an hour and a half in meditation were really the same thing. He would make them realize much of what he had himself realized. It was Goodwin alone who wrote down and kept all the instructions, but the ordinary listener would not
take special notice of Swamiji’s points. Mohendra will now report what he remembers and just what he thinks was said. Goodwin’s [unpublished] material has all been lost and apparently there is no hope of recovering it. Mohendra’s account will be like a grain of sand beside the Himalayan compass of the former, but perhaps better than nothing at all! Among the meditation instructions: “Just as I am sitting here looking at you before me, so one can meditate fruitfully. That is, just as we are sitting here in our physical bodies and looking at each other, we meditate as if it were on another form of our own body.” He mentioned another method: “Think that your gross body has fallen dead and you are looking down at it; meditating in this way, you can quickly have the understanding of the difference between the gross and subtle bodies. But this is a bit difficult in the early stages. Think: my ishta is before me. I am seated near him with my mind gathered. Next think that gradually he is entering my body; finally the Lord and his devotee have become one body. Sometimes the devotee in his subtle body enters the body of the ishta and, staying there awhile, from inside the ishta the devotee is looking at his former (own) gross body – thus by changing things around in one’s view the discrimination between gross and subtle bodies comes. About concentrating on a point of light, he said that at first by meditating in this way there may come at the back of the head a kind of throbbing which may be unpleasant. But by meditating, this can be stopped. It is not good to meditate strenuously (forcing oneself): it often creates obstacles. He made special mention of how sakti enters the ida and pingala or opens the path. “When we are meditating and the sakti approaches the ida,pingala and sushumna, it feels as if the nerves are being torn out (or torn up), or as if a red hot iron wire were piercing the flesh – it can feel just like that. If because of this one finds at the time of sadhana an increased need for urination, or perspiration on the brow, there is no need to worry. As soon as the back of the head throbs, stop your meditation. One should not overdo. “While meditating on the fixed point (of light) you may at first see a number of black spots like a swarm of flies. Now try to think of these as pale, white, or even shining like fireflies; slowly try to make them stop moving and stand still. Of course it all depends on your meditation; they will take these forms only as your concentration deepens. Then all these will gradually come together and take on a vague sort of smoky color. Soon it will be both steady and clear, and look like a steady object, though the smoky color remains and its light or effulgence is yet to come. Finally it will stand before you clear, bright and effulgent. On a day when your meditation is deep like this, it will present this clear picture or form, and as your inner power diminishes, so will the said
picture fade. He always said, “Because you don’t get results right away, don’t give it all up; do a little bit of sadhana and you will understand its value.” Recommended food “At the time of sadhana stimulating foods should not be eaten. Rice, bread, milk, banana and other fruits are best. It is good if one does not take meat or fish, but fasting is not necessary. You can take bread, fruit or milk three times, or four or five times a day. Eating little is good, not filling up. Notice what does not cause wind in the stomach and lassitude in the body and take accordingly. Also what keeps the mind pure. By observing this much discipline the mind will quickly progress on the path of meditation.” The meditation room. [First part as given in Raja Yoga.] “Always think of it as a place for meditation. Keep it pure by means of a few flowers, fruits, incense etc. Let its air be fresh and the mind will concentrate automatically. Keeping in the room some pictures of perfected souls or some symbolic figures too is good, because all these accessory things bring an attitude ofsraddha into the mind. “Asana. When you keep to one seat and make japa there with concentrated mind for some time, some of the japa’s power lies hidden in that habitual asana and it will rise and help you on a day when the mind is restless or lazy, so always keep it pure.” As an example of the holiness clinging to special places, he mentioned that a certain person had entered a secluded mountain cave and sat doing japa for many days until he gave up his body. No one knew his name, place of origin or anything about him. But if any advanced sadhaka now goes into that cave, he will know as soon as he enters it that it is a holy place. And he will declare that a perfected soul had lived there, because the power left there reveals itself to the newcomer. Japa. “Unceasingly one should make japa of some pure word or the name of a perfected soul. At first it will be with the tongue, or gross body, but as it goes on uninterruptedly, the japa becomes inward and springs up inside the body. Then it goes from the tongue to mind, and gradually all the subtle nerves of the body pick up the japa. As one goes on doing this, a certain power arises from inside; then the gross body becomes different, and does not seem so heavy, inert or indolent. The dejected and impure moods which we feel in our ordinary state do not come any more. Then the body feels quite light and gay; there is enthusiasm and difficult matters seem easy to understand. Swamiji said: “I have done continuous japa; it is in every atom of my body. I have done it to the very tips of my fingers. As we now experience the objects of the world in our gross
body, when we go to the subtle body, all this is experienced in another way and that is full of joy (ananda) and affection.” Good effects of continual japa Swamiji said, “By doing perpetual japa the mind takes a higher direction. On going to a certain plane, the mind becomes very dispirited, and as if not being able to see or do anything more, as if empty and vapid, as if there is not longer any capacity for japa or meditation. This is called a point of polarization. Many get frightened at this point. But either by faith or grace or some other means if one can go beyond this, again one goes on into a higher groove. In this state, phenomenon becomes noumenon, in other words, the visible universe vanishes and the supersensuous appears. Whether through one’s own strength or through the grace of an illumined soul or by all means taken together, this barrier must be crossed. “By continually doing japa and meditation, when the mind goes beyond even the subtle body, from within the hidden power or latent energy wakes up; this is called ojas. When it goes downward, offspring are produced, but when directed upwards the mind proceeds toward Brahman. When it goes in different directions to different organs, various activities result. If it goes to the eyes, the aspirant gets clairvoyance; to the ears, clairaudience, to the nose, smelling at a distance, and if, going up into the head, it reaches thesahasrara, there is samadhi. This ojas finds various modes of expression through the sushumna. In one whose eyes are naturally strong, the ojas first tries to find expression through the eyes; then through the nose, ears and other organs. In one who is ‘ear-minded,’ ojas gets expression there and so on. It is not by taking a lot of food that ojas is increased: otherwise those who can eat the most would have the most, which is far from the case. They do not depend on so much food; food is helpful only to a small degree. Ojasis an independent thing; it arises from within the sushumna through uninterrupted japa or other similar activity. The difference in this ojas is what make the difference in speakers.” On the day of this lecture on ojas the discourse became most profound. Everyone felt an upliftment of heart and the banishment of weak thoughts by new strength. Some of the siddhis, psychic powers Thought-reading. Swamiji said that it was not a particularly difficult business and can be learned in a few days’ effort. “First bring yourself into a bodiless or subtle-body state. You must be completely active and the thing to be seen, passive. Then in your subtle body enter the body of another person. Thus you can discover every thought arising in his mind; nothing remains hidden. But
this is not salutary. It will often be useful, rather, to enter the mind of sadhus and mahatmas, as their minds are on a high level. But if one enters a person of low life, all those thoughts may come upon oneself and one may be permanently affected, and fall. There is another difficulty: there comes an inordinate inclination or desire to be praised by people, and with this there is a great increase in egotism in which also one falls down.” Staring at the sun. In one lecture Swamiji said, “In India there is one type of sadhu who makes japa from sunrise to sunset while staring at the sun. In conversation with them I learned that at first the eyes water, get inflamed, and everything looks black; but after some days’ practice, it becomes possible to go on staring at the blazing sun. But those who follow this practice have some object or desire in view. I do not think it leads to any elevation of mind or Godvision.” Raised arms. Another sort [of ascetic] keep one or both arms upraised. Swamiji said, “Talking with them I saw that they first keep the arm fastened to a tree branch or some other high thing. At first there is excruciating pain, as if one is about to die, but after being endured for some days the pain lessens and the muscles of the joints atrophy, after which there is no more sensation. There is no necessity at all to do these things; they are all done for selfish purposes.” Science and effects of prana control Pranayama. “It means controlling one’s vital force. Many think it means just breathing exercises, but actually it is not; that is only a small part of it. The whole world is constructed of two things: one is called akasa. It is not the void we see above us, but is that in the void which is real. What is ordinarily seen is not the akasa. When the mind of a yogi stays in thecittakasa or mind-space, he discerns another person’s mental content or a supernatural order. But when it goes to the cidakasa, then the experience is contentless, the Self shines in its own glory. This akasa is one all-pervading existence. It is so subtle that it is beyond ordinary experience. When this becomes transformed into some shape, it comes into our ken. It is in thisakasa that the creation remains at first, and into it again that it finds dissolution.” Here Swamiji discussed and compared many philosophical views. “Akasa through the power of prana, becomes the universe. As akasa is the all-pervading substratum of the whole world, so prana is the all-pervading developing power of the universe’s origin. Everything becomes changed to akasa at the beginning and end of the kalpa, and all the forces get merged in prana, and from it again all power becomes manifest. If one becomes adept in pranayama the door to infinite power is opened. Pranayama is a process of knowing and understanding the true nature of this
force (which controls breath etc.) The word prana applies to the senses, mind and all. It is the name of the one Power. Those perfected inpranayama are able to accomplish “supernatural” deeds. These are not miracles; everything is a miracle to the ignorant. “By rhythmical breathing the body can be kept well. From olden times the soldiers used to stand in an open area, keep the spine straight, and march etc. according to a rule; so they were healthier and stronger than ordinary men. Yogis can throw off disease if they so wish. I have taken medicine by the carload, but have had no special benefit from that. At last, when I firmly put disease out of my mind, from that moment I became healthy. The yogi, if he likes, can by touch or glance control illness or even banish it.” (Here it is necessary to remark that Swamiji cured the malarial fever of one-and-a-half-years’ standing, of the writer, by his sheer will. He and Swami Saradananda were on the fourth floor of the house, and Swamiji, from the first floor projected his power and cured Mohendra.) “The way we breathe ordinarily is quite uncontrolled. Then too, there is a natural difference between men’s and women’s breathing. So it is necessary to regulate breath because that will keep the whole body well. If one practices pranayama sadhana for a few days, one will quite clearly understand that the voice has become affectionate, sweet and melodious. I have never seen a yogi with a croaking voice. Even in ripe old age flesh of the face may be wrinkled but it is firm as a child’s. All the lines of the face which show dryness or harshness disappear and the color brightens. The mind becomes filled with peace. This peaceful mood and happiness of eye, face and body are clearly visible outwardly. After practicing for some time one gets this appearance. But it must be borne in mind that all this depends on the sadhana.” The ladies of the audience hearing all this were quite happy and began to think that all other parts of Raja Yoga were less important than pranayama. Pratyahara and dharana were taken up [There is nothing in this particular section not in the book Raja Yoga]. “To control the mind requires a special sadhana. Those who can control their own minds can control others’ also. They can awaken in others their own innate enthusiasm or inspiration. I have made the minds of many controlled, and had the fruit thereof. I have not, however, had the opportunity to go to the zoo and control the mind of the fierce lion or tiger, so I cannot demonstrate that; but because it has not been possible to control the lion or tiger’s mind, is no reason to disbelieve.” Self-identification. Swamiji said one day that if we are to know the inner aspect of anything, we must merge with it; that is, it must be gradually entered into by being meditated upon. It is by our going into it and staying fixed there
that everything inside it is clearly known. Take a scientist who exposes all the qualities of a substance. Does he describe its insides by looking at it from the outside? Or is he depending on something else? By continuous thought about the object to be known, about its unknown essence, he is becoming unconscious of his body. The he becomes unconscious of the house, room, door, his equipment etc. – so much so that he loses consciousness even of his own body. Here he has become one with the object, or all-pervading. If he remains in this condition for some time, all the unknown and unrevealed aspects of the thing are reflected in thecittakasa and its inner secret qualities shine forth. Now the telescope and other instruments have come, so the various aspects of the sun, moon etc. can be readily understood, but in very ancient days the yogis by recourse to self-identification learned many fact about the planets etc. which are proven true even today. It used to be that many poured abuse on all the pronouncements of the yogis, but now in the discovery of new truths by science, many words of the yogis are being respected. “Perfected yogis can, if they wish, let go of the gross body and going into the subtle or causal body take up the gross body again somewhere else. He gave the example of Sankara, who was going to a certain place with some of his disciples. They had to go rather quickly because there was a big hill on the way which they would have to go around, causing a big delay. TheAcarya asked his disciples whether they should go around the hill or cleave it and go through. They could not grasp the meaning of his question, so were thinking they would go around. Sankara told them to do so, while he himself separated from his gross body and transformed the subtle. Then in his subtle body he went through the hill, and, arriving on the other side took up the gross body once again. When the disciples arrived they were all astonished and began to question him.” Adhyasa, superimposition. This evening Swamiji seemed to be a different person. Face shining, he had lost his human nature and seemed some being from a higher plane. His voice was sonorous and seemed powerful and full of authority. It was as if on one side stood the hoary doctrine which has come down through the ages, and on the other side was he, trying to dig out the deep meaning from the teachings of all religions. A dry philosopher and a divine being – he had become both. Raja Yoga resumed; superimposition Raja Yoga is the one sastra which harmonizes and explains all the marvels written in the scriptures and all the experiences of the seers of God and substantiates and explains their claims.
When the ojas of kundalini remains at a particular lotus or center, the aspirant sees the superimposition on the mind-space appropriate to that center. As an uncivilized barbarian cannibal sees that a horrific majestic idol is standing before him and in accordance with the nature of the view is commanding him to perform fierce deeds, to eat human flesh or some such horrible thing. But in another, more civilized country, where the sadhaka has his kundalini in another center, there will be a different kind of superimposition. Some will see a very peaceful image, some a compassionate one, etc. The superimposition for the aspirants of this country will be different due to their natural surroundings and climate. That of the American Indians will differ from that of the Vikings. “The prophet Mohammed saw the messenger of God standing before him and telling him many things. Later he related all of that to his circle of followers. There is no doubt that Mohammed clearly saw the angel of God and believed him in all simplicity. According to his superimposition (or projection) he saw and heard correctly. Amongst all such disembodied messages there is no doubt about those that are elevated and true, but it took place in accordance with Mohammed’s level of projection.” More on his behavior at lectures At the time of the lecture Swamiji would speak for an hour-and-a-half without a break. When he had finished he would give the opportunity for asking questions. At that time he would follow no special formality but reply in an informal way. If anyone had a question regarding that day’s lecture, he would ask it, and Swamiji would answer in a most affectionate voice. Or, sometimes, going up to the persons, in the midst of four or five, he would gradually explain things. Then he was no longer in the serious lecturing mood; rather, if they were those with whom he had some acquaintance, he would ask about their health or some such thing. Mohendra’s own observations But Question and Answer period often brought out new and profound ideas not found in the lectures. Swamiji often used to say, “I learned all this from him at whose feet I sat; all this I saw in him and heard from his lips. I am not nearly so qualified as he.” With a very little bit of humble speech he expressed the tremendous faith and devotion he had for Sri Ramakrishna. Hearing his words everyone could clearly understand and could realize that if Swami Vivekananda was a great soul of such caliber, of what stature must have been his guru, Sri Ramakrishna! In America and in London Swamiji was a different person—he
had a different mood: India has not witnessed that great power. India saw Narendranath Dutta and the Western world saw the powerful Swami Vivekananda. Maybe India could not bear that power, so he did not manifest it there. He showed the kind of power he had to show in order to establish his position with respect to the world-conquering English race. It used to be thought that the English were thepeople—so wealthy, so respectable, learned and with the right to make use of other races’ brains and at the same time be indifferent to them. Everyone would stand before them like obedient devotees. He showed this power in the Western world but when he returned to India he shucked it off and became again Naren Dutta. Sri Ramakrishna Swamiji said, “That great soul, sitting at whose feet I learned my knowledge, used to see the Divine Mother. He would see that She was standing before him, telling him all truths. All those were exalted ideas, fraught with profound meaning. How had he been able to see this? His ojashad reached a high level and he had the vision of the Divine Mother. She talked with him in various forms, and he would listen. New ideas and new truths were revealed to him. This condition is not the fruit of any special reading or study; the awakening of the ojas is the only means. So, even though this great soul was unlettered he was preeminent in the world of thought. This is called projection (adhyasa). Truth and relativity of superconscious experience Lord Buddha: “Buddha said, ‘Whatever truth I have seen and do see I fearlessly give out to all. Even if all the world stands up and contradicts me, I will not be disturbed in the least. I have seen the truth and all this truth will remain. All the truths I have told you will be as Veda to you.’ What Buddha taught was great truth but he spoke of things as he saw them. “The Vedic rishis, making hard tapasya awakened the kundalini power. They too discovered many truths. Each truth was correct, but each sage saw or heard the disembodied message in accordance with his own superimposition. These they fearlessly declared. In one story it is said that a certain sage learned his brahmajnana from a river. A river doesn’t say anything: it is a mass of flowing water; so how did he learn from a river? When the mind got into a high state this sage learned as it were from the river, from external nature he heard the divine message. This is called the ‘reflexive mind’ [Written in English]. Another story tells of a sage learning from the fire. How? He performedhoma with a concentrated mind. Raising his mind to a high state he heard the truth and it seemed to come from the fire. So the homa fire is
calledJataveda. In another story he sage grazes his cows for many years, all the time making japa. Finally the culmination of his austerity arrived. One day while he was driving the cows, he entered a deep forest and was thinking especially deeply when a cow, pleased with him, gave him brahmajnanaand all this divine message as a highest truth. The sage saw in the cow his own projection. Now different explanations cannot be given in the various stories of sages; Raja Yoga is the only means by which all these different ideas can be reconciled, the different views being seen as expression of the various projections of the persons seeing. Similarly, Moses. Burning bushes do not speak, but that is no reason to deny Moses’ vision. Science usually scorns all these happenings as the ravings of a lunatic and brushes them off. But it is not proper nor useful to treat any philosophical or metaphysical matter in this way. It is the business of the philosophy treatises to ascertain what kind of truth is in each thing. What science calls derangement of the brain Raja Yoga gives meaning to, and explains as superimposition? The discovery of Truth “Many people say that such and such a person has discovered a truth. Is truth sitting in the corner of a room someplace, waiting for someone to come along hunting and find it? Although many truths have been discovered, many remain yet unknown. Compared to the truth that has been discovered, much more remains yet to be manifested. If anyone says that he has discovered the whole truth about anything, it will be a big lie. Truth is infinite. Each person in each new age discovers new truth according to his projection; so long as man lives in this world, so long new truths will be revealed. Truth is no one’s monopoly. Only fools, fanatics, say that they have discovered the full truth. These do a lot of harm to the world.” Swami Vivekananda’s own vision. All the truths Swamiji spoke of he had seen, either in vision or in sleep. He said many times, “I do not know anything. I don’t think out anything. I don’t keep notes for my lectures, not do I think before hand what is to be said in the lecture. When I arrive I collect and pacify the mind for a few moments and then I see all the ideas clearly standing before me. All these living thoughts I try to bring out, mumbling something or other. I don’t understand at all what I say. When all these thoughts do not take shape before my eyes I cannot speak a word; only when I see clearly do I begin to speak. Mohendra often noticed this transformation of mood and heard Swamiji say that just as men have form and color, so do ideas. The discussion of “vision” went on for several days. Mohendra has given only a brief account of it here. Swamiji seems to have given many very deep ideas on this subject. The audience was awestruck and heard many truths new
to them. People were dumbfounded to learn that among religious and philosophical truths there were such different views, that even among persons of revelation and inspiration there could be different levels of these, and that a book of sutras could be written that harmonized all these [referring to Patanjali’s]. For the common man, this great truth had been declared for the first time outside of India, in the American and Western world. Buddhist monks of old had preached it after a fashion in foreign lands, but no one knew it very accurately and we have no record of it, but in this age Swamiji has done this. It is difficult to describe the splendor and brilliance of his face, eyes and voice at this time. The power which he had expressed standing fearlessly before the choicest religious audience (Chicago Parliament) was coming out again. He had not stood before them with bowed head and folded palms, but as an equal among equals. So his lecture was of such a high quality. This lecture subject went on for four days, i.e. eight sessions. Argument with an Englishman Such was the level of Swamiji’s talks on “Vision” that his fame with the public increased and brought many new persons to hear him. One evening at the lecture there was a (military) pensioner who had served in Bengal. He was elderly and thin. Because of having lived for a time in a hot country his skin, instead of being the usual English white, was dark. The lecture began. Swamiji was standing in his place. Goodwin had his paper on the sofa near the far corner of the room. Swamiji started slowly. Hardly had he spoken for five minutes when the India-returned Englishman said very disrespectfully, in a loud tone, “Oh, thank you!” at almost a shout. Everyone was annoyed, but still no one expressed anger openly. Many now regarded Swamiji as one of the great souls like Jesus or Paul, and had profound love and respect for him. To be frank, they called him a perfected guru. So naturally they became irritated and began to make a stir. Pursuing his speech Swamiji said that the Christian religion had now become warlike, but that in Buddhism there was still the idea of compassion. In China at the present time, because of Buddhism, 400,000,000 people get a little food. Wherever Buddhism is still strong, war and military technology is played down. But where Christianity is current many go hungry and they always keep ready for battle. Jesus himself was a most compassionate man; Christianity had become a military religion.” This man, sitting near the fireplace said, “Sir Monier-Williams has written in a book that Buddha was a very selfish and cruel man, as he ran off from his wife and child. He was an atheist who didn’t believe in God. His teaching could not be called a religion. Buddha merely made a set of social and ethical rules; it
is not an ’atheistic religion’. And Jesus’ religion is the only one: it alone has faith in God and words of welfare for man.” The man evidently read Sir Monier-williams’ books and when living in India read nothing about Hinduism or Buddhism. Swamiji. without giving any rejoinder to his words began to relate in many ways the compassion of Lord Buddha and said that even to this day in India there are such noble sadhus. “No,” said the man, “I know the sadhus are thieves. They are all robbers. When the sadhus would go into any town or village I would see the police follow them. I even used to see them chase them out of the village. Thieves and loafers put on the gerrua, and they are what are called sadhus.” Sturdy was sitting in back of the sofa. He got up and came quickly to the middle of the room. “When I lived in India I saw many fine sadhus, men of the highest level of Swamiji here. I made particular investigations into this matter and talked a lot with them and watched them.” He said this in a rather loud voice and with some heat. Previously this Englishman had thought that Swami Vivekananda was a Madrasi because in Bowbazaar in Calcutta there lived many Madrasis with long names ending in “swamy.” But when he heard Swamiji and saw his mannerisms, he recognized him as a Bengali. Then he puffed out his chest and in patronizing tones said, “I thought you were a Madrasi; now I see you are a Bengali Babu. You know that during the Mutiny we saved you.” Sturdy, who had been sitting at ease but was now standing in the middle of the room like a madman, shouted. “But you were well paid for it.” Shaking all over, he angrily seized the man by the neck and began to push him outside. Goodwin had been writing there in his chair and occasionally looking angrily at the man. Now he could stand it no longer, dropped his pen, rolled up his sleeves and prepared to come to blows. Swamiji had even them been going on smoothly with his speech, so Goodwin, out of regard for that, had been waiting for him to stop speaking. The audience was upset, turning one way to look at Sturdy, the other to look at Goodwin. Fox had indistinct speech and was not so prompt; he was saying something unintelligible from his seat. Swami Saradananda and Mohendra were Indians, cowed by this uproar in a foreign country and both began shivering. Then Swami Vivekananda, abandoning his natural peaceful demeanor, assumed an altogether different and threatening one. Turning to the right and facing the man by the fireplace, he poured fire for nearly thirty-five minutes without let. He began to recite the history of the English race from Hengist and Horsa to the present day, and how their behavior had been oppressive and rude wherever they had gone. He told the ubiquitous story of the English race, full of
reproach, and said the world had given scarcely any impeachment to them on the evidence of this history. That day he showed what a surprising knowledge he had of these events of history, in proper sequence, and astounded all with his facility. Then that Englishman, downfaced like this in front of everyone, took out his handkerchief and began to weep and blow his nose. He consumed three handkerchiefs in the process. Then he was all undone and sat like a block of wood. Swamiji, after thirty-five minutes again faced the audience and in an affectionate tone of voice resumed his lecture. Reactions to the event “Now I go on to pratyahara and dharana.” He began as if nothing like this had happened, like a balanced immovable perfect yogi. It was a great surprise to the people that he could pick up like this, just in the mood he had abandoned. His angry mood subsided as quickly as it had arisen. That day there was no Question and Answer session. Some famous names had been included in his indictment: Cicero, Catullinus, Demosthenes, Philip of Macedonia, Hampden and Pim, Wenworth and Lord. Such a scathing indictment Swamiji had never before spoken and Mohendra had never heard. When the lecture was finished, people said to Swamiji, “Swami, you have taught us a grand lesson in forbearance. If anyone had spoken to us in that way, we could not have stood it. You are saint, you are a really great man” and so on. In the parlor, Swamiji, Sturdy, Goodwin, Miss Muller and Swami Saradananda all gathered. Sturdy said, “I went completely out of my mind. I don’t know what I said or did. I only know that I gave that man a blow on the neck.” That Englishman must have been a bit changed, for after it was over he went to Sturdy and begged his pardon and went quickly away. He did not have the courage to face Swamiji. Sturdy said, “He is unspeakably rude. He used to have some petty job in the Indian Government and has come to show his bluster in this country as well.” Goodwin said, “I would have liked to thrash this man but Swamiji gave me no chance. I couldn’t do anything because he didn’t stop talking. Otherwise I’d have given him a good beating.” Swamiji had been sitting silent; then he said, “Everything is Narayana. This man too is Narayana. Only he is bad-Narayana.” To Goodwin, “Goodwin, “bring my hat and coat and cane; come, let’s go for a walk. Don’t think any more about him. He is Narayana, wicked Narayana.” He took a cigarette and went out with Goodwin and came back late at night. The subject of Pavhari Baba. In one lecture Swamiji said that mind must be withdrawn from the body, i.e. not attached to any organ. Depending on how high a level the mind rose to, so would be the new ideas it would see. Many
think that if they get ideas which are more or less high, they have advanced very far and there is nothing beyond that. This is a big mistake. “I met at a place called Ghazipur a perfected soul named Pavhari Baba. He was a yogi of a very high order and amply learned as well. He told me that where the north pole and the south pole meet is the place where religious life begins. Sitting there one must gradually reach a high state. But many people think that where contrary thoughts meet in one place, i.e. a non-dual state, beyond the opposites, that is the acme of sadhana. But Pavhari Baba said that this is the first stage of the religious life. Another thing he said was that Buddha and the others so highly estimated had given expression to their ideas, but in a higher condition such expression is not possible. Compared to the expressed the unexpressed is much higher. There have been and are souls who have reached such a high condition that they could not give any sort of expression to their thoughts. So they remain silent, and in the outside world are thought mad or dumb.” That evening Swamiji talked of the high state of Pavhari Baba. It was a great surprise to the audience, who listened in awed silence. The Duchess of Albany. Many people had come to the morning lecture, among them some élite ladies. A lot of carriages were at the door and a great deal of bustle going on. Mohendra and Swami Saradananda were sitting at their post on the upper interior staircase. The nurse (aforementioned) was sitting on the balcony, writing down the lecture. It was very moving and everyone was listening intently. When it was over everyone gradually came downstairs. Swami Saradananda and Mohendra came down to the balcony. In the lecture hall there was a lot side-glancing. whispering and nudging going on among the ladies. It was all about one particular lady. When she had left they heard, “It is the Duchess of Albany”. Then it was learned that she had come incognito and secretly, to hear Swamiji’s lecture: earlier her lady-in-waiting had come to hear them and had told her all about it. For ladies of the Palace it was forbidden to go elsewhere without Queen Victoria’s permission. The Duchess of Albany was the wife of the Queen’s fourth son, so she had to come incognito. At this point it should be said that in his lectures Swamiji would raise one topic and the speak on various subjects and from different texts, so it is impossible to remember on which day he spoke on what. Only this can be said, that he discussed these matters in Raja Yoga in the upper room. Probably the audience did not remember it either, because it was his specialty that he would carry them into a realm beyond words. Vatsalya bhava. As the daily discussion of dhyana, dharana and samadhietc. was rather dry and people got tired, Swamiji for a change introduced bhakti subjects such as this. Among Christians, there is the ideal of Mother Mary
nursing the Baby Jesus in her lap, which is called the Madonna. If women do spiritual practice in this way, their minds can quickly go higher. Swamiji gave a beautiful talk that day with a comparison of Yashoda’s Gopala and the Child Jesus, and delighted the ladies. Madhura bhava. In one lecture he spoke of this. “God or the ishta is called upon as husband or beloved. It is He who is the lord, the husband, the protector – doing sadhana in this way, we weaken our body consciousness or connection. Within us an affectionate pure kind of love awakens. There is much of this in the Vaishnava scriptures of the Hindus. Among Christians, St. Catherine practiced this and through it attained perfection. (Mohendra saw in the National Art Gallery a large painting of St. Catherine [of Sienna] in her wedding dress as the bride of Christ.) Bhakti was the subject at evening lectures, after which came Fearlessness. Swamiji said that with the knowledge of the nearness of God, fearlessness comes. “That there is someone near unseen, who hears my words and who will fulfill my longing – this knowledge is fearlessness. When one is fearless one becomes calm, and strength comes to one’s heart and there is strength in one’s talk. Many have the idea that if we think of God, who will feed us? But I tell you all flatly, go with me and you will see there need be no fear about starvation. In whatever country we go, whatever city, whatever village, the very best food will come of itself. So don’t worry about that. I have demonstrated this in my own life. I never preach what I do not practice. There is nothing to fear.” That day he spoke many words of encouragement without a stop. Everyone got inner strength. Doubts flew away; conviction was aroused. He gave an illustration. “In Europe in the Middle Ages, there were many monks and friars, among whom some reached a high state. The story is told that one friar went out to a mountainous place in Scotland. There was no village or settlement there, but he began to walk. This brother had tremendous devotion to God and was fearless. The first day he got some food. The night somehow passed on that mountain, and the next day he got on the move again. But the second day he got no food. Again managing somehow to sleep, he set off the following day. After going some way, he felt very tired and, conscious of the hardship of the mountain-climbing. At that very time an eagle, flying overhead with a fish, let go of his prey, which fell at the monk’s feet. Looking up, he saw the eagle flying. He began to compose a hymn in praise of God. Gathering some firewood he cooked and ate the fish. With that little strength he walked again. If one becomes fearless, everything comes out all right. For one’s food there will be no obstacle; it will come of itself. Mohendra had liked the story very much. Swamiji told the story of Yudhishthira and his dog, making the additional point that a dog, in India, is untouchable, and even on such a trip, not
considered a fit companion. Many of the women of England have pet dogs. So this story appealed to them. He told another story of Yudhishthira. “The king was going towards heaven when he came upon a very high mountain peak, heavily covered with snow. When he had been approaching the snow for a long time, an extraordinary light (or radiance) was given off. Yudhishthira had given up his kingdom, wealth and everything and had become a pilgrim. He no longer had desire for any worldly object, and had formed a resolution to go to heaven to attain God. Seeing the unusual radiance of the snow, he began to climb higher. Looking at the high, snow-covered peak he said, “O Mountain, I seek nothing from you. I have nothing to ask of you, for my desires have been extinguished, but seeing your immensity and beauty, I am charmed and awestruck. I love you for the sake of love alone. I look at you for the sheer joy of it. In the looking, life has merged in your beauty, so to speak. Reward and expectation are trifling things; love for love’s sake is the best.” “A person sees the world in accordance with the expression of his own nature,” said Swamiji one evening. “The external world is nothing but the bubbling up of our own inner power taking the form of objects present before us. We are taking these in and calling them “other” or external world. There is no certainty about there being a real external world, and if there is, it exists in a trifling way. The external world is created by self-projection. But whether there is an outside world apart from my mind is doubtful. One person sees the world as peaceful, another as a cyclone, a great upheaval. One person sees all as his friends, his boon companions, another sees the world as his enemy, trying to do him harm. And if there is an external world, whatever is needed for making that appear real is supplied by our own projection.” He told an illustrative story. “A thief was out in the night for robbery. When he had gone a little way he saw on the side of the road something sticking up. Thinking that another thief was crouching there for the same purpose, he said, ‘Well, brother, how goes the night’s work? There is a long night ahead; what will you get from sitting in one place? You’ve got to go around a bit, to pick up something.’ No reply coming from the other figure, he said: ‘What, friend? You are crouching there over a nicely-stuffed bundle and have hit upon real pile of notes, eh? So you’re not wanting more. And I am yet to find mine, so I’m off on the road for roaming about.’ And away he went. “A bit later a drunkard came along and saw that figure sticking up. He said, ‘Well, friend, like a hawk poised to swoop you are lying in wait for your prey. But I shall have a round, and then come and snatch her out of your mouth.’ Then a sadhu came along. Seeing the same sight he said, ‘Oh, you are having a perfectly fine time all by yourself. You are sitting here beside the road
making japa throughout the night, and you must be thinking me a fool to travel along the road and then fall asleep. Let me not leave your company: I too will sit here and do japa all the night. He sat near the figure and told his beads. Early in the morning the thief and the drunkard returned that way. They too sat near the figure in the dark, one by one, each taking it for what he had expected. Slowly the dawn came and then they saw that it was neither thief nor drunkard nor sadhaka, but only a tree stump! Then they revealed to each other their minds. So is the world – something expressing one’s own conviction.” The story of the golden mongoose (As in Karma Yoga). And the four little birds. Then the housewife and butcher and the svayamvara. Sakhya bhava. In the course of a Bhakti Yoga lecture, Swamiji said that we find the worship of God as our own friend, in India alone. It is not found much in other religions, or wherever it is found, it is not common. If one performs sadhana as the friend of God, great strength comes to the heart, and many people will get benefit from it. As Lord, Master: this instruction is given in many religions. Do the will of God and remain under His control. “In the spiritual life, if improvement is to take place, personal attachment to some person or Ideal is very necessary. Every form of the bhakti path depends on this steadfastness or sincere attachment. In the measure that one has steadfastness to the ishta, so will be the feeling of his closeness. The fidelity will slowly take the devotee’s mind to a higher plane.” By way of example he said, “I am giving the lecture and so many persons have gathered, but as is each person’s personal involvement, so will they take the matter to heart, and just so will a truth be reflected within them. Thisnishtha, adherence to one ideal, is the essential thing. The discourse will not be fruitful for one who has no faith in the speaker. The wife has faith in her husband, so their life is so pure, so sweet. At first our fidelity to the ishta is not total, but if we practice a few days, the way becomes revealed and it gradually increases.” As Swamiji talked on, a profound sincere devotion was awakened in everyone. A kind of group-feeling was quite palpable. It seemed each listener’s mind had mingled with Swamiji’s mind and been colored by it. “The body is made of a collection of molecules, kept up by a state of vibration. This is the vibration of gross objects, as a result of which we are not able to see the subtle ones. But when we advance from the gross to the subtle objects, this vibration projects a different reality. The mental thing is a bundle of ideas. All these conceptions are difficult at first for us to grasp properly, but when we progress to the subtle plane, the subtle vibration brings form and color to the subtle thoughts. Everything is the projection of vibration. This bundle of ideas, endowed with form and color, stays at first in a hazy condition and
gradually condensing, gets clear. This is called superimposition or selfprojection. In other words, the collection of ideas inside takes visible form and stands before us. In measure as the inner energy or vibrational power is there to sustain it, so long does the perceptualized concept remain, and when that decreases, the vision before us fades. If I can make my idea visible, then I can say something definite. When the idea is clearly visible in the mind, my lecture too, will be taken to heart by the audience. I simply see before my eyes and speak it out.” He spoke a long time about the visualization of ideas. Previous birth “Our minds are always out-going. The path of the movement of energy too, is from inside to outside. It is the natural propensity of the mind to wish to seize upon something new, and so it runs in this direction. That is why people are always making new discoveries. But there is another direction for the mind, which is inward, turning the mind back upon itself. Most people do not remember their actions of long ago. If you ask most people what they did three or four days ago, with whom they spoke etc., usually they cannot say. All this bundle of actions does not arise in their memories; perhaps with a little mental effort they may be able to recall a little. But there is a practice by which all past events can be very much awakened. At first we have to think hard, when we did what; gradually we are able to walk backward and reawaken these memories. At first it is very troublesome and exasperating, but after a while, by practicing this the mind becomes firm. By thinking into the past like this, finally we can catch the memory of our childhood. Whom we played with, whose house we visited, who were those who loved us etc. – all must be minutely awakened. After that, the mental power becomes fixed in one place; it cannot waver from looking back, as it were. If anyone can go beyond this limit, one can reach even the knowledge of one’s previous lives. All these things are written in the books, and I can tell you that I firmly believe them. From what I have done myself and so far back as I have been able to go, all this appears to me to be true.” That day he quoted freely from various books about the above subjects. The early stages of sadhana “When we first try to control the mind, many sorts of thoughts arise. At first it is best to let them run. Whatever energy we have, then this has to run down a bit and they will subside of themselves. After that, the body begins to itch as if something were crawling around on it. Sometimes it is like ants tickling. These are all phenomena of the beginning stage. Later the back of the head heats up
and a pain may be felt. If this happens it is good to stop meditation for awhile. No special gain is made by forcing; on the contrary, it may be counterproductive and weaken the body. Or we may feel, in the backbone, that someone is pricking us with a sharp needle. In that case too, stop meditating, because if all the nerves get a little rest, they will again become strong and the power to meditate will return. In this state it is necessary to urinate frequently; it is not a symptom of illness, rather it has an improving effect on the health. Sometimes when the mind is raised up from the ordinary state, many changes take place in the body. The attachment of chitta “The mind is not to be attached to any contemplated object. Forsaking all other objects, the chitta is to be absorbed in one target only. Some meditate in the heart lotus, some on one of the others. Pratyahara means that the mind is to be separated from the material objects or range of the senses. But the mind cannot remain long in this separated condition. “Lifting the mind from all sense-objects is the result of strength, no doubt, but this is a negative process. The mind cannot long remain in this negative condition, because a positive or active process of the mind is essential. It is necessary to meditate on some positive object, so we use the heart or other lotus. The devotee thinks about some ishta. The ishta has a form, and according to the devotee’s own inclination, a color and other qualities. Some, relinquishing an ishta, fix their mind on a spot. At any rate, some positive object is to be taken. Even if, at the time of making the mind inward, the body at first becomes tired or restless, once the inward mood comes, a new feeling appears. Ordinarily we are not conscious of whatever heat is in the skin or its immediate vicinity, because that is our normal condition. If the mind ‘goes in,’ this nervous heat enters the deep levels of the body and vrittis of the mind will all change too. So the body feels light, and our inhaling and exhaling become controlled. After some practice, whatever swift motion there is in the blood vessels of the hand will relax or diminish. This is not a symptom of disease. “In various kinds of harmful thoughts and wasting of our strength outwardly, the body gets worn out. That is why food and drink are so essential to us. But when the power is turned inward, this process of wearing out is much less rapid. When the energy is inward-directed, it preserves our bodily sustenance. So the food intake decreases. There are some philosophic views to the effect that, if the wear and tear on the body caused by evil thoughts (or ‘hampering anxieties’) is prevented by inward-directed energy, one can sustain oneself. One need take no external physical food. They say all this is accomplished by
the air (vayu) which pervades all subtle things; when the inner power is specially increased, by means of the subtle particles of air, one can maintain one’s body. There are examples given in the Puranas and other ancient books of many ascetics who lived in this way. For, in that case all the nerve currents move in a different way and there is no need for food. “Whatever you think becomes one with the object of thought. There is no use in uncontrolled thought. The thought-current is to bring in each object as if it were completely filled with that, i.e., one with it. When the current of thought will flow with power in whichever direction it is sent, the undertaking will be most fruitful. Millennium In the Christian religion there is an idea that a time will come when everybody will be pure, noble and filled with holy thoughts. All will be saints, suffering, poverty, wickedness and crime, will vanish, heaven will descend on earth and earth will be heaven. Swamiji, referring to this, called it an impossibility. It was fine to hear, but unfeasible and a contradiction in terms. As we go on meditating, when the mind gets steadied and the bodyconsciousness is minimized, i.e. when even the remembrance of body, place, time, country and causation is not there, and the mind rises to the Great Void, then the object of contemplation is reflected in its cidakasa. But devoid of substratum (or receptacle) the mind cannot remain long in the Great Void: that is why a support is needed. The first impression of truth comes in the form of pictures. In the Great Void or cidakasa, numerous forms suddenly appear like pictures. But the movements of these in relation to each other express quite new ideas. We can express through speech a little bit, but all the living ideas which are beyond speech, and which speech is attempting to indicate, then become clearly evident. There is no fear in all these visions; gradually this seeing of pictures will get expanded in various ways and become uplifted to higher realms.” Self-realization; Swamiji’s own experience “Sadhus and yogis in the early stages see everything as external, and try to get their instruction and their blessings from outside. I roamed about the whole of India, my forehead swollen from being banged against the floor through prostrating. At the time, a little peace would come, no doubt, but shortly it would all go away and I would become very depressed. Nothing happened nor was there any hope. Finally I got disgusted and so dejected that I gave up all external practices, all bhakti. Then I decided that as I had got nothing from outside after so much search, let me see if I can get it from inside. I would
renounce everything, even give up the body. There was no necessity for a life spent in vain. And I began to search inside. I extinguished the external world completely; in the interior world I saw something tremendous! There the external seemed a mere trifle. Little by little, doubt began to lessen, and my dejection abated and I began to have Self-realization. Then a strength and courage came into my heart. The inner vision is far superior to the outer. A natural dignity (or manliness) comes from the vision of the Self. Ordinary heroism is clumsy person’s heroism: it lasts but a little while – in a moment a person can become crestfallen and cowardly. But the manliness of those who have seen the Self is full of fire, enduring and incontrovertible. It is not the build or strength of the body that gives mental power. That comes from the vision of the Atman.” Self manifestation the basis of everything. “Self-knowledge or Selfrealization and each object as the manifestation of Brahman – when one acquire this Knowledge one becomes free. One can no longer be much impressed with external glamour. In my days as a wandering monk, because of the uncertainty over food and rest, the body was always out-of-sorts and ill. I took many medicines but got no result. Finally, exasperated, I altogether gave up resorting to medicine and tried to arouse whatever was already within me. Then strength came to the mind. I banished all bodily illness, then the body became all right. If the Atman within awakes, one’s body becomes changed. From that time my health has been quite good. Sometimes I catch a bit of cold, but then I don’t have to take much medicine. Self-manifestation is the main thing. “Even if yogis drink intoxicants, they get no special effect from them. When a yogi reaches an advanced state the body changes. The way the action of liquor affects the ordinary person is not seen in the advanced yogi. Wine is no different from water; one will notice no difference. The scriptures even say that if poison is administered to the perfect yogi, nothing will happen, because when the mind has risen, no action on the lower level is effective.” Swamiji said that he knew of the case of a certain person. Though one of his limbs was burned, in the state of samadhi he felt nothing. Though others got the odor of burning flesh, he, dwelling in the state of samadhi, did not move the rest of his body nor feel pain in the member. But when his mind came down again to a lower level and joined itself to the gross state, he began to feel the pain of having been burned. When the mind unites one part of the body with another it experiences its sensations. But when it rises, the gross body’s sensations cannot disturb the subtle body. “When we first meditate we get some joy and the mind moves ahead by degrees. But a state comes when the mind becomes paralyzed, and there is no energy left in it. It seems to be dull. At this time, one must try to invoke grace, blessing, and bhakti. Crossing over this state by such means, you will again be
able to meditate. “When, after meditating, there comes real absorption, i.e., the sadhaka becomes free of body-consciousness or clings only to the subtle body, letting go of the gross (in this condition the whole external world gets merged and only space or void remains), then from inside oneself a question must come up; turning over this question for some days, one provides the answer oneself. Self-projection So’ham, so’ham. Swamiji became very serious on the subject of self-projection. He said, “The whole creation is the self-projection of the “I.” Joy and sorrow, virtue and vice, freedom and bondage, all are self-projection. In whatever way I project myself, in that way, seeing the idea of freedom in each object in the world, I am absorbed in bliss. And when I rise above ideas of good or ill, vice or virtue, free or bound, I see it is I who has become one, I who has become many.” Here he was so exalted in outlook that everyone was spellbound. The room was so still, even breathing was not heard. “I am He, I am He,” he said, “I am that Sat-chit-ananda, the Atman. The world, the body, mind, whatever is outside – all that I pervade. It is I who have projected the universe, I am hidden in everything. Just as I am staying in this body, so do I exist in each body. I am all-pervading. Every created thing is mind. I am a voice without form. Body is something external, world is something external, thought too is the same. So’ham, so’ham – the Hindus have given this idea to the world. In it there is no fear or hell or cringing tendency. The ideal here is the establishment of Oneness in all things. “The body is a stream of matter. Ordinarily we see the body as a stable or abiding entity. But it is changing at every moment, and yet we regard this perpetual transformation as a temporary fixture. What do we see from babyhood to old age? Everyone is the same person, but the body or covering is being changed at every moment. By food, by breath etc. e are taking in the material world and a little later in various ways we letting all that out again. All the transformation that goes on between this taking in and letting out we are calling an abiding thing. We are superimposing permanence on the changing – why? Because within us there is consciousness of the Everlasting. “You all know that we cannot dive into the same river twice, because after the first dive time has wrought changes. I have grown a bit older, the sun has risen higher, some water has gone down the stream, tree leaves have fallen in, some mud has floated by, etc. What is it that we call the present? When I form a thought and have not pronounced it aloud, then I call it ‘future;’ but as I speak of it, even then its work is done and it is gone; so it is called ‘past.’ Future I understand, and past, but where is the present? Inferring a joining of past and
future, we give a special name and call it ‘present.’ But future thought is no sooner present than it becomes past. “Our bodies are collections of certain materials. I am putting everything in through one kind of opening and it is all going out through another kind. This transformation is called ‘enduring’ body. The illustration may be given of seeing a beehive from a distance. From afar it appears that the bees of the hive have sat down quietly inside, but if we go close we can observe that the bees are continuously on the go, wandering to and fro; within a certain boundary they light here and there, some fly up high, etc. So it is with body or anything having name and form.” The story of a miracle-working yogi “A devotee sat on a very high mountain in a hut, repeating the Lord’s name, and spent his days living on whatever food came to hand. One day a miracleworking yogi came and stood before him. ‘What are you doing sitting on this peak?,’ he asked brusquely. The devotee replied, “I am sitting still and repeating the name of the Lord; what else?’ ‘I’d like to show you my power,’ said the other. ‘Look, see what I can do.’ And waving his hand in the air he said, ‘Let a storm come.’ At once from all sides clouds came and heavy rain began to fall. Many trees and shrubs were uprooted. Among the travelers coming up the side of the mountain, some were swept away. Sheep and goats also died as if themahapralaya had come. “Then the yogi said, ‘Shall I show you another power? Storm, abate. Sunshine come; sky, be clear.’ At his word all the storm clouds departed and very clear sunshine prevailed. Seeing all the destruction thereabouts, the devotee said, ‘These powers of yours have done much mischief. Through the taking of so many lives, how much misery you have brought! And all for the sake of expressing your own egotism! You have got this power, but have you got Godvision, brahmajnana? You began your tapasya with the idea of getting Godvision one way or another; now, stopping in mid-journey you have lost that ideal and taken a side path. This is no glory to you: it is your obstacle. Nor are you the sadhaka you were. You have fallen to a lower level. Give up totally this power; then you can approach Brahman.’ The yogi was ashamed on hearing this and, understanding his error, took refuge with this devotee and stayed with him for the rest of his life in the pursuit and contemplation of God.” Seeing or hearing at a distance
Many of Swamiji’s audience had some acquaintance with this phenomenon, but none of them really understood what it was. To show his own skill in the matter, Swamiji demonstrated it for about forty-five minutes. He said, “Whatever your question is, write it and put it in your pocket. I will tell you what it is.” All did as requested. Then Swamiji, turning to the left, began: “Now the question is this……….” As this question was announced, on the other side a man took from his pocket and looked at a piece of paper. It was that very question. Seeing his behavior, the people had no doubt that it was his. But lest this person be embarrassed, Swamiji, facing the other way, said, “On a main road beyond a gate there is a corridor leading to a stairway. On the right of that there is a room. Upstairs on the ‘first’ floor is another room with a bed on which a little boy is sleeping.” He whose question had come up was very happy and could hardly contain his satisfaction. Then he took up another question, and as before, faced the opposite direction and said. “This is the question……………..” The one whose question it was took the paper from his pocket, examined it and looked embarrassed. He looked fixedly at Swamiji, wondering what he would say. Swamiji said, “In a ‘first’floor bedroom on a bed a child is lying; beside the bed on a small table are some vials of medicine; the boy is ill, but he will be all right; in a few days he will be quite well.” He took up another. Seeing this person’s restlessness, he said, “There is a room in the middle of which is a table; beside the table seated in a chair is an old man.” In this way he covered exactly many questions. This event took place in the question-and-answer period after the lecture, not at the regular lecture time. But another evening the audience did not experience their customary pleasure; instead, they were rather in a state of apprehension. Listening for some time about the perfected yogi, everyone got the idea that Swami Vivekananda was such a great one, himself. This evening, unlike the other days when they would chat pleasantries with him as they left, everyone went out looking at him in trepidation and shrinking. They had a strong feeling that Swamiji was a terrifying person who could read all their thoughts. That night there was no jolly mood; rather, a frightened feeling was in evidence. The lecture, too, was very serious and beautiful and the listeners heard it in great absorption. In the next day’s lecture, Swamiji began to explain this ESP affair. “When the mind in a high state becomes utterly free of body-consciousness, nothing stays at a distance. The mind must be made inactive or neutral. After awhile in this condition it is to be placed on some object and it will be able to see all the things comprised in that object. This is called clairvoyance. But when the thing comes as a picture, it does not come just as it is: when it comes by the subtle plane, it is upside down. For example, there is a room with several persons
sitting at a table. Suppose I wish to know about a particular one of these; I will see that all others are sitting there normally, but that particular person is upside down. The chair legs are up and his head is down. Then one understands that this is the particular person to be looked at.” Many people came to all these lectures and were dumbfounded to see Swamiji’s uncommon yogic powers. They had read in the Bible that Jesus could do all sorts of miracles, but those were affairs of those days. They had the idea that at the present time no one could do such things. But they saw Swamiji’s power and considered him a superior person and honored him accordingly. The body transformed by yoga If one does japa and meditation there comes a covering over the body. If these are done for some time, a transformation in the cells of the body begins, and the old molecules are changed for new ones. The body gets changed a bit. The body of a (accomplished) yogi is made of different material from that of an ordinary person. The vibrations and projection of the atoms are from our natural propensity; the mind creates this body. The yogi’s body is of a shining cast, the voice is sweet and his glance affectionate and full of attraction, and his appearance peaceful and calm. Then, when the yogi attains a high condition, from his limbs a magnetic power or luster is given off. When this luster comes close to the low-minded it gives them a kind of terror or apprehension. If he sits near wicked people, there come into his mind panic or restlessness, as if from inside that person something really horrid is issuing. But if a perfected yogi comes near him, an affectionate, joyful, peaceful feeling issues of itself. If he wishes, the perfect yogi can spread out this covering or aura to a great distance. The story of Dhruva “There was a guileless little boy who went into the forest to do austerity for realizing God. He did not know any rules or regulations. But he called on God with a pure heart and simple faith. Various dangers arose: tigers, bears and other wild animals came, but not a one injured him; each went its own way. Now, tigers, bears etc. are all dangerous animals; they molest people and devour human flesh; but why did nothing approach Dhruva? If I think about harming another – if from within me injurious vibrations arise, those vibrations will surround me and whoever comes into that area will feel thought of injury arising in him and ultimately these will come back on me as cruelty. But if I rejoice in the welfare of all and distribute thoughts full of peace, those too will go out and whoever comes within the radius of that will feel peaceful inside for
the time being. I have seen something of this matter myself, and as for the rest, I have full faith in it. Wild animals are certainly affected by it. After all, they also have babies, they too at one stage wandered about with their mothers. ‘Wild’ means that for the first moments there was no cruelty; they are at the same time both wild and tame. From the episode of Dhruva we may realize that vibrations of affection flow out from the body of a yogi. This is not the only such example; there are many such stories.” Allurement by divine nymphs “In many books the story is told that a yogi practicing spiritual exercises achieved a high degree of advancement when suddenly his mind became upset and a divine nymph came and began to seduce him. This idea is current in many lands and in various forms. Why? Mind can go very high through austerity. Reaching that, one gets quite a bit of joy and feels secure, but inside, hidden and unknown desires remain which can rise up forcefully. When tapasya has been done for some time, all the nerves become subtle. They are easily touched off by slight vibration. So when old desires or memories get wakened a little, they assume very vivid forms and stand before us. No nymph comes from outside; these are projections from within the aspirants themselves. Taking form in the causal space, they become reflected as a suggestion in the mind. In accordance with the previous life of each aspirant, in accordance with one’s social milieu, this reflected picture stands before one. So no two people have the vision of the ‘nymph’ in just the same way. Mara attacked Buddha in one way, Jesus’ temptation was different, but all these come up from inside.” Then Swamiji said, “When one reaches a very high state one has to give up the desires altogether – to ‘fry the seeds of desire’ [written in English], in the language of the yogi. If the seeds remain, they will sprout; but if they are thoroughly fried, they cannot sprout any more. On the part of an advanced yogi this is especially important. For this whole universe has come into being through desire, and it is in desire, also, that a person becomes bound. Desire is the creator of the universe.” On the domestic scene Swamiji expressed to Miss Muller his desire to learn French; she knew English, French and German. He told her that if he traveled in the various part of Europe and wanted to talk with society people, a knowledge of the French language was mandatory. He would often talk with educated travelers from foreign countries. And the surprising thing is that he was able to study and get some accomplishment in it. He told Mohendra to study it too, but the latter was not willing.
Miss Muller was much annoyed with the old housekeeper. She always complained about her cooking. After some days she brought a new servant and told everyone, “This cook is a very good one, one cannot find a better cook than this.” There was no end to the praise. Everyone kept quiet; no one ventured to say anything. She then volunteered: “She can cook wonderful rice.” At this, Sturdy asked, “How does she cook it?” Miss Muller replied With glee, “Why she puts the pot of water on the fire until it comes to a full boil; then ties up the rice in a cloth and puts it in, and when it is boiled takes out the bundle and drains it, and such beautiful rice is there.” When the two Indians listening heard this astonishing method of preparing rice, they suppressed their laughter with the greatest difficulty. Mentally they were saying, “Thank you, dear cook, for your bundle-cooked rice!” No one dared say anything for fear of a row. British women, American women One day Swamiji was in an expansive mood, walking to and fro in the house, sometimes smoking, sometimes sitting briefly in his own chair. He began to speak. “How robust are the British women! On the street, in the lane, everywhere, how like men they work and walk. Their muscles, too, are very hard. They are the symbol (or model), as it were, of the good health of the race. That is why so many children are born in this country who are also strong and virile. They don’t marry before the age of twenty-five or thirty. They take special care to keep the body healthy. So even the girls are strong and virile. And all those parents who are thin and sickly, their children too are the same, lank and effete. None are married until their bodies are built up. The Indian race must be made very strong. Because it has not been so, its children are weak and always full of despair. It is essential to make that race self-confident like the British. The Hindu race is dying from this hopeless attitude. Filled with faith they will be able to accomplish much in the world.” Swamiji animatedly said such things. His pronouncements had become serious, anxious and reflective, for that is how he spoke when he was under some mental distress. One day Swamiji said, “How energetic the American women are! They are not women at all, they are men! They go to the market, buy things, keep the account, go to the bank and make change, climb up on a bus, drive, go here, run there……What astonishing energy! They defeat the men! There is not the least femininity in them: they are like men. And these discreet English women are homely and fat. If they have some work to do and have to go out alone, they die of fear. They are not so smart and clever as the American women—nor so courageous. Compared to (the Americans) the British women seem about fifty years behind. They are antiquated, as it were, following old customs. And in
the new American republic both men and women earn money. That is why they are so vivacious. An enthusiasm comes in the women’s minds and a strength to their hearts. They haven’t a trace of womanish thick-headedness.” Everyone heard him in silence. Swamiji could, when he felt like it, or when necessary, remain in such serious and absorbed mood that no one dared to go near him. But again, when in his natural frame of mind, he would make all sorts of fun with everybody. One morning he was sitting in his usual chair while Sturdy sat in a chair not far away looking out the window into the street. Then with Sturdy he began such a farcical sotto voce confab that the latter bent his head over (lit., “in shame”) and began suppressed laughter. But Swamiji, holding nothing back, carried on without let for some time. From this it can clearly be understood what intimate association Swamiji used to have with people; as a result, no one took offense at his words or actions. He was such a simple man that he would not hesitate in the least to express himself. But he could not keep back anything, in his mind, for long. Summer, and scolding It was summertime. Even the breeze felt a bit hot. Mohendra came down at about 3:30 one afternoon and found Swamiji sitting in a chair. Seeing him Swamiji said, “Some black grapes have been kept in the glass dish. Eat, eat plenty. Grapes purify the blood.” He got up and gave Mohendra grapes from the bowl. “Take, take and eat; it will purify your blood.” That day he was very expansive. One afternoon at four o’clock Goodwin came and informed Mohendra that Swamiji wanted to see him. Mohendra was just coming back from a trip out and was ready to go and wash his face; but getting a summons from Swamiji he quickly went to him without delay. At that moment Swamiji was in conversation with four or five visitors. Of course the talk had been in English. When the formalities were over, Swamiji, noticing that Mohendra had no tie and collar, and his hair was not properly brushed, said [in Bengali?] “You shouldn’t come into the room in such a condition. Don’t use a collar for a whole week; change it twice a week. Using a dirty collar looks very bad. And always keep your hair neat and clean; your coat, vest and everything too. Gentlemanly behavior and appearance is of the first importance. Otherwise you will be despised.” Swamiji looked closely into everything and particularly noticed correctness of behavior and dress. Customs of language and dress
When in conversation the subject of the Hindi language came up, Swamiji said, “The Hindi which the ordinary servant, porter, doorman and cabby learn is not at all the Hindi of the western gentleman; it is called “Cabby Hindi.” So saying, he amused us by giving some illustrations of that. “To explain it all,” he said, “vulgar Hindi is a thing in itself; there are many Sanskrit words in it. Also many Arabic and Persian words. Although this language has currency in many parts of India, there is one or another variation on this language.” Another morning the subject of the Rajputs came up, and then the topic of their clothing. Swamiji said, “Bengalis put on the dhoti of course, but they fasten it in such a way that if the slightest breeze is blowing, the cloth gets disarranged and flies up, in even a little wind. That way no running is possible. If a bull chases you, look out! Putting the cloth on like that makes it a kind of paraphernalia, and one can hardly do any work in that! But the Rajputs dhuti method is quite beautiful. They wrap around the legs to look like trousers; they can work, run and find convenience.” And he showed everyone with his own trousers and his hand, the Rajput custom. “In our country people do not sit before an image or before a king with their feet exposed. It is also forbidden in the scriptures. It isn’t proper to point the feet at a deity or a king. Hence the custom of wearing rolled pajamas. Otherwise the cloth is to be worn in such a way as not to show the lower portions of the body. So at that time one is to sit with one’s legs and hips well covered. This instruction is specifically given in ancient scriptures. The Bengali custom of wearing the dhoti badly needs changing. Clothing etc. must be put on in such a way that strength comes to the heart and people can feel lively. Otherwise putting things on sloppily, a person becomes lazy, loses enthusiasm in everything and slowly grows effete.” One can see how he was continually pondering the welfare of his native land. When Swami Saradananda had his attack of malarial fever, Sturdy had big doctors brought to the house and spent twelve pounds or so on medicine, which mortified Swami Saradananda. Mohendra came back to the house in the afternoon and found things in quite a state. Swamiji entered the room and said to him, “Where did you go at noon? Sarat had fever and how restless he has become! In the fuss made over a little fever, the whole house has become fedup and inconvenienced. So long as this fellow is ill, stay by him; when he has fever he will create more problems. The man is a malarial patient; see how he moans with fever. Swami Saradananda became quite embarrassed at this affectionate scolding. He pulled the covers off his head down to his neck and blinked his eyes, but said not a word. A bit later, when Swamiji had gone away, the two of them chuckled. As the fever abated, Swami Saradananda said with a laugh, “We are malaria-country people; we get this illness twelve months a
year and are used to that. But here people have never seen this kind of disease, so they raise a fuss over it.” Swamiji says more about Americans Swamiji said one day, “The Americans don’t eat much, but how much they take! They will eat one or tow spoonfuls and throw the rest away. And they eat such a variety! As the people eat, so are they able to work and earn. That is why they live so long and keep well. But how can the Indians live on so little food? On a half or a quarter of stomach full? They have no enthusiasm or perseverance, always depressed and despairing. What little they can do in the world does not occur to them. They have forgotten what strength still remains in them. They see only death ahead, and sit spineless. They have no power to make anything new. To what a frightful state the race has fallen! Will it not die out at last? Often I sit and think of this. And I think about this question of the Americans. Between the two races, what a difference of heaven and hell! One says, ‘By my own power I will slash all the obstacles from my path and proceed,’ and the other says hopelessly. despairingly, ‘What will happen? How can I manage?’ The main reason for this downfall is the wretched diet. Wretchedly they eat, wretched they are; so the race has come to this pass.” We all saw big tears welling from the corners of his eyes. In the effort to express in words his feeling, that feeling had erupted on his face like a volcano. Then we were all overwhelmed by it. Another day Swamiji said, “How long the Americans live! At eighty or ninety years they work like young people. Those who have become old scarcely remember it. That idea has been completely routed from their mind. The country is free, the people happy, in everything there is zeal. Money, too, comes easily to hand, so they can enjoy life for many years. Death itself seems afraid to come near them. English people too, live long and their bodies are strong and virile; but in what a sorry plight are the Indians, who dies so quickly. Their faces always wear a fearful expression. They look like a shapeless mass, lifeless, without hope or endurance, no zeal for anything and no desire for it, nor for doing anything new. So they soon die. Will they not die out, leaving no trace? What misery! How sad.” The color drained from Swamiji’s face and he fell silent for a long time, sunk in sadness and depression. Vacation, and Meeting with Paul Deussen After some time living in London and giving lectures all the time, and coming in contact with the common people, Swamiji, being very tired and urged by all to go for “a change of air,” decided to do so. In the summer recess
he wanted to make a “Continental tour.” Mohendra moved alone to a house in Cambridge Street. Sturdy from time to time used to come and stay in that house. After a few months and an improvement in health, Swamiji returned to London and related various incidents from the Continental tour. He spoke of his seeing Deussen and the latter’s special kindness. He was a scholar specializing in Vedanta and renowned for this, throughout Europe. Such a pandit, and so well-read, yet he was just like a child. His children would be yelling for their breakfast; instead of concerning himself to feed them, he would be engrossed in his Vedantic study. But from Swamiji’s conversation and expression, it was clear that Deussen was fit to be only a student, compared to Swami Vivekananda. Probably his meeting with Swamiji took place before his coming to London. At the time of discussing this with Sturdy, Swamiji expressed his affection for Deussen and gave vent to his own opinions, to which Sturdy assented. The significance of this incident is that such was Swamiji’s extraordinary genius and astonishing power, that even a famous pandit of Germany respectfully bowed before him like a disciple. At about this time an incident occurred in Paris which is particularly apropos here. One day Swamiji went with the Duchess de Palma in a hired phaeton from Paris to a suburb for a change of air. Swamiji had studied French and could also converse nicely in it. The Duchess said to him in English, “The coachman of this carriage can converse in excellent polished French.” (Something unexpected of a coachman.) While this conversation was going on, the carriage came to the side of the village road. A maid-servant had brought a little boy and girl out for a walk. The coachman stopped the coach and, coming down, took the children in his lap and kissed and stroked them, and then got back in the driver’s seat. The Duchess de Palma saw with surprised that these were children of gentlefolk, yet this person who was a cabman had fondled them like this. So asked him, “Why did you do that? Those are gentlemen’s children.” Said the cabman, stopping and turning back to the Duchess, “They are my children. Have you heard of (Such and such a) Bank in Paris?” The Duchess replied, “That was big bank, but it has failed.” The coachman said, “I am the manager of that bank. I watched it fail. To pay back the debt will require several years. Now there is the need to have my neck in the grasp of someone else. I have kept my wife and son and daughter in a rented village house. There is just a maid to look after them. With what little I had I bought this phaeton and have taken up driving. I support myself and my family with what I get. But when the debt is paid off, again I will open a bank and be a banker.” Swamiji, amazed and delighted at this story, said to us all, “This is what I call a Practical Vedantist. This man has understood the essence of Vedanta.
Falling from such an estate to this low condition, he is nonetheless unmoved, steadily going about this work. He is in no way overcome. Thank God for such a power of mind. This man is really a Vedantist.” Swamiji often told the story. I do not remember all he said. There were many other things said about the Continental tour, but I do not recall them now. PART III Swami Vivekananda’s mood, language, words, pronunciation and everything changed at the time of his lecturing. It was exactly as if each thought were expressed as a living image. “Ideas have their form, colors and dimensions,” he would say. That is why his lectures seemed so alive. Goodwin did not take notes on the lectures at the R.I.P.W. Gallery because all those had been given already in America. He took notes of all the Raja Yoga and often of other conversation. There was a special feature of Swamiji’s lectures: the language that he used for a particular subject – that very same language he employed when that subject came up again. Idea and speech were one. “The first impression of a truth comes in the form of a picture,” he used to say. Another thing was that whenever he made a digression from his subject, upon concluding that he would return just to the point where he had left off. So his line of thought was unbroken. One morning everyone was sitting in the downstairs room. Sturdy was not there. Swami Saradananda, Mohendra, Goodwin and probably Fox were there. Swamiji sat a long time in his chair, deep in thought. Then all at once he began to say, “So’ham, so’ham.” The look on his face, the tone of his voice, became utterly changed. His face became the veritable picture of joy. In this bliss he began to pace the floor or dance for awhile. Everyone was astonished. Here was a new person, a free person. Then he became silent and sat again in his chair. Slowly his mood passed off and he became like a normal man. When staying in the St. George’s Road house became inconvenient Fox and I moved to another house [“on the side” – next door?] (This was shortly before Swamiji traveled to the Continent.) Goodwin sometimes stayed there. One day about four-thirty or five in the afternoon, Goodwin came in and told me Swamiji was sending for me. I went quickly to the St. George’s Road house. In the upper room on the street side there was a kind of porch, which we called “the lounge.” Swamiji and Miss Muller were sitting there. After asking me one or two questions, Swamiji resumed his conversation with Miss Muller. “The doctrine of reincarnation,” he said, “was in ancient Egypt because they used to preserve the dead body” – any injury to a limb of the corpse would mean an injury to the spiritual entity. Even if the dead man was bound by some
debt, it meant the double too, was bound by that. Thus was the idea of reincarnation first hypothesized by the ancient Egyptians. Later this idea entered India and more or less pervaded the various races.” At this there was a lot of discussion about rebirth which I do not now recall. It was the first time I had heard the above idea. “Trace out the idea,” he said. “That is, take up an idea and see its spread in a hundred channels, among which races and in what forms it has been carried, and which idea was expressed among which people in what way – all this can be shown.” Astronomy Then with Miss Muller the subject of astronomy came up. What is particularly worth mentioning here is that in ancient days there was no telescope, yet what the ancient sages if India had said about the composition of the planets etc. was true, it has become evident. Swamiji said, “There is a branch of Raja Yoga called ‘self-identification’ – I am the planet, the planet is myself.’ In this way, when the two became one, all the qualities and things embodied in that planet or star are reflected in the person. This can be used also to investigate other things besides planets. What today’s science is telling us about the planets, the Indian sages mentioned in different ways.” In this way he talked about what form astronomy had taken in which countries, and how it had been transformed and how ideas had passed from one land to another, and how all these ideas had been improved. He spoke in his chair just as he had while lecturing. He showed that day his knowledge of the science. He had read and thought much about it, otherwise such erudite and detailed descriptions he could never have given. From time to time Miss Muller would say, “You can silence me but you cannot convince me.” Then I went away. Goings and Comings He and Miss Muller now went to the Continent [19th July]. Even then Swamiji used to stay at Lady Ferguson’s house, 57 St. George’s Road. Fox and I began to live in a house nearby. Not staying near him, I did not know everything. Anyway, Goodwin went again to America and so did Fox, as he was an American. I moved to another house. The cold weather began: probably it was October. One evening Goodwin suddenly came into my room. I was bowled over. He had returned only a few days before from America [13th October]. Someone was with him, I saw, dressed in English clothes. It was dusk, I had been startled, I could not recognize this person. But Goodwin was
talking to me. With embarrassment I asked the name of the newcomer. Then this person took off his hat. I saw it was Swami Abhedananda. Then how I rejoiced! Goodwin said, “Now talk in your own language!” (Because the British custom was that when a person was present who did not understand a language, it was discourteous to use that). Anyway, when Goodwin left I lit up my pipe, Abhedananda put a cigarette in his mouth, and we went out for a walk. Abhedananda said he would have to lecture the next day [27th Oct.]. At this time Swamiji left 57 St. George’s Road and took Swami Abhedananda with him to live in Westminster on the ground floor [actually, below ground], Greycoat Gardens. Goodwin was to live there too. First public lecture of Swami Abhedananda In the afternoon (of the next day) on the roof of a “bus”. Sturdy and Swamiji sat in front while Swami Abhedananda, Goodwin and I sat behind. We arrived at 33 Bloomsbury Square, WC1. The house was extremely well-appointed. On the stairway was a stuffed bearskin and a statue. The rooms had gas lanterns. On one side of the first floor a mountain and waterfall had been created with ferns and rocks and moss. One could see that the master of the house was very fashionable. A meeting had gathered in a large hall inside. Swami Abhedananda and I sat on a sofa at one side. In the middle of the side of a table sat Swamiji, Sturdy and several other people. And in various places around the room people were seated in chairs. Swami Abhedananda began his lecture; he was not accustomed to it, especially before English people, and after a few minutes became a bit self-conscious. His words seemed to get stuck. I touched his knee and whispered, “It’s going fine. Carry on.” Then the rest came out well. His subject was the book Pancadasi. A question period followed. As the younger Swami was new and unfamiliar, Swami Vivekananda undertook to answer the questions. Anyway the lecture was well-attended and everyone well pleased. When it broke up in the evening people came down to the outer door. Goodwin was almost dancing with joy, that Swami Abhedananda’s lecture had been successful. Swamiji said, “Kali, why were you nervous about lecturing in England? They too often get stagefright, they make a lot of noise, and say things like ‘you see, you see.’ Your lecture was very good.” Swami Abhedananda had written out his lecture and read it over several times before giving it. Because it was the first day, naturally he had been a bit nervous. Then all went home by bus. Swamiji and Sturdy went in another direction. Goodwin and Abhedananda went to their Westminster quarters. At this time in Victoria Street near the Army-Navy Store Building in a rented hall upstairs Swami Abhedananda began to hold a Gita and Vedanta class. I
went to it one afternoon. By that time Swami Vivekananda had returned to India. Swami Abhedananda at that time was staying in Sturdy’s house in Holland Park Avenue [Villas]. When the Gita class was over I talked with Swami Abhedananda for a while and then came home. A few days later I went to Sturdy’s house and met the Swami and the two of us went to the house of a Mrs. Turner for Indian cooking – ruti and so on. At that time he was giving a talk in some meeting on “sarva-dharma-samanvaya,” The Harmony of Religions. After that I did not know much about Swami Abhedananda. Later he went to America. Reporting of Swamiji’s lectures resumes “In the early stages a lot of nonsense comes up in the mind in meditation. Endlessly, vulgar and uncontrolled thoughts are present, so that you may feel ‘Even in dreams I never thought like this. Very vile thoughts, too, arise at this time. Then too, four or five thoughts come at once and create an uproar in the mind. The ingredients a person’s mind has been composed of, surface at this time. Many wild and fearful pictures may come before our eyes. There is a limit even to the ravings of a madman, but not to this, it seems! Yet there is no need to be afraid. “If one practices meditation regularly for some days, the breathing becomes controlled. The breathing of the average person is irregular and unrhythmical. After some meditation, the body feels free, spontaneous, and heaviness, weakness and sloth disappear. As inertia goes, the body feels light, but there will be this special sign that within the person a power of attraction will arise. Willy-nilly people will be attracted to such. Affection, sweetness, profundity will be noticed in all one’s actions. It is as if one has gradually left one’s old body and taken on a new one.” Swamiji in his Raja Yoga lectures made a special point of this: that at the time of such sadhana married persons must avoid sexual relations. He used to say this repeatedly. If that virile power goes downward to another body, or to produce offspring, it is not available for rising to the higher “lotuses.” Only then can the mind rise up to the sahasrara and have God-vision. While giving these Raja Yoga lectures Swamiji would go from the dualistic state into the non-dualistic; finally he would arrive at the pure Advaita. Then it would become obvious what an independent being, a free soul, he was. He would stand with his spine absolutely straight. This was the method or posture for meditation. Meditation could be done while lying on one’s back: this is called the “corpse posture.” But meditating deeply while standing on one’s feet, very few are able to do. Swamiji, taking up a subject, would begin in a soft manner. Gradually his
mood would change and (voice) become louder. The sweet tones of his beginning, with the gracious expression and affectionate eyes little by little would begin to change. Then his body would become straight as a rod. His hips, spine, neck and head all seemed as if suspended from a common string. Slowly his meditative mood would deepen, his tone of voice become altogether altered. His rhythmical sonorous voice would come from his throat in an unobstructed stream. People nearby and those farther away also, could hear that sound. In that voice of his there was not note of harshness, nor of sweetness, nor of sorrow, nor of “I and you.” It was as if in boundless space a vibration had arisen, been converted into waves and that sound was gradually penetrating everyone’s ear and body – to the very marrow of the bones. Yet everyone at such times had this particular feeling that they had no body. Bodyconsciousness was totally removed. Place was absent: even the consciousness that one was sitting somewhere was gone. Time was nothing, and there was no awareness of one speaking and others listening. Speaker and audience were totally one. Neither had a gross body. All had risen to the causal body and from the vast firmament, the sound was becoming a single wave-current vibration [attempted translation – Ed.]. Then he would often say, “I am a voice without form.” His power to make others feel like this was like a communicable disease. That is why all the topics and arguments of his lectures could not be remembered or taken notice of; it was the living power that was the reality: the arguments, the language, were unreal. The samadhi was the inner consciousness. He would say, “I am directly seeing and feeling the Truth; I am perceiving Truth and I am myself the Truth.” Swami Vivekananda demonstrates samadhi Day after day, when Swamiji would give the lecture, there would be no chair in the place where he was accustomed to stand. One day before the lecture he asked Goodwin to put a chair there. And the evening lecture began. He started to talk a lot about samadhi and the different forms of it. The audience was absorbed in this new topic. The higher samadhi was brought up. He said that in this, all the external nerves became actionless and the inner ones awakened: in other words, all the external mental waves are suppressed. “All vrittis become stilled and the gross body and causal body separate and the mind plunges into the depths. The gross body becomes totally motionless and vibrationless and the subtle or causal body becomes activated. Samadhi is not sleep nor any kind of intoxication nor the drowsiness of basking in the heat. When one’s sleep breaks and one wakes up, one returns to one’s previous mentality; there is no particular change. Drunkenness brings a kind of stupor, but afterwards the mind is lower; not so in samadhi. A fool or ignoramus coming out of samadhiwould
be a wise person. His path would open and he would manifest a new expression which he would never have known before. Ignorant persons would become sages, as it were, weak-minded persons, persons of mental power; knowledge would appear before them. “In samadhi mind leaves the sense-bound world and goes to the supersensuous where it sees truth directly. One touches it with one’s hand and oneself becomes truth. So when one returns to the gross body, one is a free soul, one’s whole attitude becomes one of freedom – the look on one’s face, the glance of one’s eyes – all become changed.” Swamiji would often say, “The fool becomes a sage, without book-learning. Truth has to be seen, to be dug out, to be realized.” In this way the lecture went on for about forty-five minutes. The audience had been able to understand a little of this topic, but it was mere hearsay; they had not seen it. Somehow they had been able to get some idea of it. Now Swamiji brought up the chair, and sitting in lotus posture with straight spine became totally absorbed. His face altogether changed. His eyes were halfopened and the pupils turned up. Swamiji’s eyes were by nature larger than most people’s; often the pupil would seem to be very prominent. But in this samadhi a portion of the white of the eyeball was clearly visible. Everyone was struck on seeing this samadhi. Many of those sitting at a distance stood up to stare at the new sight. Goodwin stopped writing and turning around in his chair, looked fixedly at Swamiji’s face. It was something new to all. There was a bit of a stir, but no commotion; all were surprised and awed. Swamiji remained in this condition for three or four minutes, not moving, not breathing, like a living image made of flesh. Then he brought his mind down, gave out a long breath, which (because the room was hushed), was clearly audible. Then he got up from the chair and pushed it behind him and again began to speak on various matters concerned withsamadhi. “When I used to study spirituality,” he said, “at the feet of a great soul, he would always be going into samadhi. His would be of a very high order and he would be in it much of the time: he could not keep his mind in the sense-bound world for very long. I am a small man – I have been able to understand only a very little of him and his samadhi. That day people were so overwhelmed that they had no courage to make any special conversation with him. There was no question period and Swamiji, too, seemed more tired that evening, or perhaps more serious and disinclined to talk or company. [A footnote is given: at Baranagore Math in the first stage, in the rainy season one afternoon, Swamiji’s savikalpa samadhi was observed. Because of his practice of samadhi he could have it while walking – but there was no bodyconsciousness. He had had it several times at Cossipore Garden too. But having this samadhi at lecture time and many persons seeing it, is particularly worth
mentioning (or “remarkable”). They could clearly see and understand the topic.] Details of meditation and prayer “By fixing the mind on a spot between the eyebrows, or on some object of meditation, if one can keep it there, the outgoing tendency of the mind is reversed. It is quite difficult at first, but by some days’ practice, the mind can reach the incorporeal state. In the corporeal state of gross body, the mind takes on various fickle moods, but in the incorporeal this is greatly lessened and the mind stabilizes itself. “I am the giver of my own blessing.” In the course of the a lecture it came up that if we make sincere prayer or restless demand of the Lord, our desires are fulfilled – even to the extent of getting direct counsel. How does this come about? Swamiji said, “By thinking uninterruptedly about one thing and combining devotion to the Lord with that, the mind itself goes upward and often becomes forgetful of body, time, place etc. Going further it is conscious only of itself as truth; no other awareness is there. Its own truth becomes reflected in the cidakasa and in this reflected state becomes the light of consciousness. Often it is evident that the higher mind, observing in the light of consciousness the entreaties of the gross body, satisfies these and give reassurance – in other words, one’s own subtle or higher condition has taken a certain form and the gross body is as if asking the prayers. Of itself this high state blesses the gross body. It is not that as soon as one prays, one’s prayers are answered; the causal body determines whether or not the prayers will be answered. Normally we go on thinking that some god or heavenly being is hearing our inmost prayer, and he, condescending through his grace, is fulfilling it. This is the popular idea, but if our mind goes higher, it can be clearly seen that I am granting my own boons – that is, the subtle ‘I’ is blessing the ‘I’ which is in bondage. Despicable “sadhus” “Sadhus and ascetics go wandering in different places. So they do not keep much with them in the way of belongings. Many, ignoring the proprieties of sadhana, take recourse to various kinds of austerities. Some sit on a plank of nails. Others do pancatapa with fire on four sides and the sun overhead. Others smear themselves with ashes. All these practices have gone on for ages. What is more, there is one class of sadhu who declare themselves unclean sadhus. On their bodies there are vermin, and of course they smell bad. They are afraid lest any living creatures be killed, so when one falls off their bodies, they will put it
back on. These care so much for the life of any living thing, their own odor and the spreading of vermin and disease does not trouble them. This kind of ‘sadhubehavior’ is a reprehensible and should be forbidden. It should not be tolerated as it is a menace to society.” Past, present, future In one lecture Swamiji said that where past and future become mingled, there is samadhi. We are always thinking of the past and the future; it is the present which forms the center of things. But so swiftly flow the currents of our thought, that in thought itself the present becomes fragmented into past and future. So the mind dwells on the future and can understand that, but cannot hold on to the isolated present. When the simple present or existent is the center [of attention?] one experiences one’s own nature, and there past and future become one; and that is samadhi. Vedantic relativity Theory of transition. One day he said in the lecture: “Body is a stream of matter entering into one end and coming out the other, and the name of this transition is body. Thought too is being endlessly transformed. As far as we can imagine or see, there is change in everything. If mind too is always changing, then after death there will not be anything remaining which we can call existence. In that case our future existence or permanent existence cannot be. The Self would be lost. For one mass in the form of the universe is arising with all its ingredients; if the ingredients get changed, the whole, too, will be ruined. So the Atman would dissolve.” (This is Buddhistic and a conclusion not desired by us.) Swamiji gave the illustration of the sun. “That Reality is One, but when the mind reaches a higher state, we see the Reality as larger and larger and we go from vast to vaster. From earth we see the sun as a rather small bright object, but we can easily imagine that if we rise very high in the sky we shall see it as immense and much, much larger than our own earth. It is the center around which not only Earth but other earths revolve. When our mind is constricted we see the petty qualities of a thing; when it is expanded we are able to catch its innumerable aspects. He was very fond of this illustration and used it often. Up and down relativity. Swamiji spoke on this in a very beautiful way. “We always gauge up, down and the directions, but this relative idea of ours is not based on permanence, but on certain conventions; but if these conventions are trespassed, the truth based on them no longer holds good. When we look
around on this earth, we use ‘up,’, ‘down,’ ‘east,’ ‘west’ and such words, and here all these are meaningful, but leaving earth and rising into the Great Void or eternal space in which the earth is revolving, no such directional words are applicable. Where a comparison can be made between one thing and another, such directions are meaningful.” Substance and quality At one evening lecture he began with a deep and commanding voice. “Substance and quality! We speak of the qualities of all these objects we are looking at; in the domain of the sense-bound world we explain the qualities of things. According to one view (Buddhist) as an aggregate of accumulated qualities an object is created. This bundle of qualities is called ‘reality’. There cannot be anything behind it; and if this aggregate disappears, no reality remains.” Pointing to the wall on his left, he said, “We are seeing this wall; its color, its length etc. – all these are names of its qualities. Because they have become combined, we call this a wall. And so with everything else: certain combined qualities we call a table, others a gas lamp etc. In this view, it is the qualities which are the basic entity and beyond them there is nothing. Aggregates of qualities creates. And so long as all those qualities stay together, we understand that object, but in time, when the collection of qualities one by one disappears, then inversion occurs and when all the qualities disappear it is destroyed. “This would all be true of the mind as well. After the death of the body, so long as our subtle or causal body remains as a bundle of qualities, so long is there personality or personal existence, but not thereafter. This is called Nihilism. There cannot be any permanent substance called Self. When we say ‘self’ we are thinking of some quality or other. We cannot think without qualities, such as stability, existence, indestructibility. So self or any such thing must break up some time or other. Everything dissolves into the Void, where there is no quality. That is the only noumenon. If you speak of God, the Creator, it simply means taking certain quality-bundles; we project some imaginary being whom we call God, who in time will also perish.” Everyone was fooled by this exposition into thinking this was his view, unanswerable. After a little while he raised the question, “But there are several objections to this. Do the qualities belong to the substance, or the substance to the qualities? These are relative terms. Especially when we say qualities, we are aware of ebb and flow, but when we say substance, we think of the eternal and unchanging. We never perceive
all the qualities at any one time, and perhaps one person perceives twenty qualities, while the object looks the same to everyone. Even if we speak of qualities, one explains them in one’s own way and our awareness of substance is unchanging, while our awareness of qualities is changing. It cannot be that the idea of the permanent has been superimposed on the impermanent. Quality is the illuminator or witness; but the question is, even if the qualities are all aggregated, is there apperception of our permanent substance? “Our permanent substance beyond qualities is unchanging and eternal. Our mind is divided and fickle. Therefore if we perceive the Undivided, we have to do it by means of the bundle of qualities. We cannot express the permanence of a thing by means of the quality-bundle, as the former is itself the expresser and beyond the qualities. Nothing can be called the Void. We are accustomed to see the divided because we always observe with a divided mind and thought. So if we enter the Undivided, we become frightened and distressed and, not being able to find our usual aggregate of qualities, we feel it as void. But this very Undivided is Fullness.” This lecture consumed about one-and-a-half hours. He resorted to many philosophical arguments on both sides, comparing both, and finally propounded the Absolute of the Vedanta. More lecture reports Swamiji once said, “The trend of our mind is called a tendency (vritti) but the word really means circling. We have certain natural tendencies or we are under the sway of these, most of the time. These are degrading or harmful to others. Abiding in all these lower tendencies, the mind gets dirty and degraded. How can we stop such lower tendencies? That same lower tendency which depresses the mind must be replaced by filling the mind with its opposite higher one. For example, if anger overcomes the mind, to ward this off, the quality of forgiveness is to be cultivated. To get rid of egoism, cultivate sincerity (or uprightness). For injury, practice compassion or generosity.” One evening Swamiji began his lecture with the quotation, “Both you and I, O Arjuna, have passed through many births; you know them not, but I know them all.” He talked a long time about the causes of rebirth. Letting our gross body go, we go with our subtle one, but our previous experience remains to a great extent in that subtle body. That is why it gets expression again through a suitable vehicle or receptacle. Therefore many experiences of previous births are visible in the human body. Two offspring are quite different in their endowment of intellect. This is explainable by reincarnation. Heredity is not enough. Swamiji said that when frightful plague occurred in England many
years ago, it was noticed afterwards that the birthrate increased. This doctrine (of reincarnation) was found in many races in olden times. Swami Vivekananda in an ecstatic mood One day, toward evening, he said to Goodwin, “Please go down to the kitchen and tell the housekeeper to keep some fire in the stove. I will take a bath before retiring. The water boiler was next to the stove and hot water went to a cistern in the bathroom on the second floor. Having been busy the whole day, he had had no time to bathe, and it was not the custom to bathe every day. If one took a bath once or twice a week, it was considered enough. Swamiji, finishing his conversation with everyone, went to the bathroom at nine or ninethirty, took plenty of hot water and had his bath; then he lay down in his pajamas. In England people have the custom of getting inside the covers. They work all day, have no time for bath, wash only hands and face, so at night they often take a hot bath and wrap up cozily in their blankets. Swamiji chuckled a little. “You see,” he said, “at night I go to my room and lie down. I keep quiet for a while, and then within me so much anandaarises that I cannot stay lying down. I see the Blissful Mother. Men, animals, the sky and earth – all are saturated with bliss. I cannot lie or sit any longer, so I get up and dance in the middle of the room. That bliss can no longer be confined within my heart. The whole world becomes filled with it, as it were.” Saying this he began to dance a little while, like a child, and said, “Be happy; don’t be depressed, everything will be filled – the Bliss Mother is everywhere – all will be filled with bliss.” That day his facial expression, gestures and tone of voice, all were expressions of freedom, as if he had become the very image of ananda. But there was not the slightest touch of waywardness, so deep, so affecting, so affectionate, was the mood. All of us were dumbfounded watching Swamiji, and nobody could say a word. Lecture at the Theosophical Lodge A lecture was given in the Theosophists’ Hall. Near Regent’s Park, probably in the section named Park Avenue, at 19 Avenue Road, St. John’s Wood, there is a prominent establishment where the writer once visited. They had invited Swamiji to give a lecture there on Vegetarianism and he had agreed. Now Swamiji said to Swami Saradananda, “Sharat, you go and give that lecture.” The latter was speechless and felt as if the sky had fallen on him. Upstairs he said to Mohendra, “Well, brother, Naren has put me into a fix. What danger there is here! I will have to give a lecture face to face; if I make a mistake, they will say, “He is inexperienced.” And Naren gets so worked-up; if a mistake is
made perhaps he will knock me down! Am I finally to get a beating in my old age? Earlier he told me I would have to go to America and give lectures: that doesn’t bother me: over there, what will be will be; Naren will not be staying there. The danger is here in his presence. He can get so angry! If I am abused I will take it.” So Swami Saradananda was in difficulty. Even though himself a powerful man, because of lack of practice in speaking, he had no self-confidence. That is why he was hesitating so. If Swamiji asked a question, Swami Saradananda very humbly would answer with hesitation, indirectly showing his nervousness. Swamiji sometimes would fire him up with self-confidence, sometimes goodnaturedly scold him. Both actions were indicative of their mutual love. At any rate, one afternoon Swamiji himself went to the Theosophist’s hall and gave the lecture. He praised vegetarianism and talked about the difference in manifestation of power due to the diets of the elephant and the lion. He extolled vegetarianism at great length. But at the end of the talk, he confessed that he was not always a vegetarian; sometimes he ate fish and flesh. Even if unable always to follow the ideal, he did not believe in lowering it. Showing by reference to their respective diets, the similarities and differences of the English and Indian races, he made the lecture interesting. Coming back from the lecture he said to Swami Saradananda, “Go on, you shouldn’t be afraid any more. Why, I gave a few words I had fixed up in advance and added whatever came to my mouth. They don’t have a hypercritical attitude. Stirring and mixing, I showed who have the high ideals. They understand worldliness well enough. Why are you so afraid of them? Just trample on them like noxious insects. The essence of philosophy is found only among the Hindus. It will take a long time for them to understand India.” He spoke all of this walking back and forth in the room. When Swamji had gone to another room, Swami Saradananda said, “Anyway, my boy, the fever with its perspiration is over; now one part is finished; today at least I have escaped a scolding. Who knows when or where again he will tell me to give a lecture? If I stay around him, that is the peril. Let me now run to America. There, if I don’t make a go of it, I bolt, via Japan.” A fish dinner One day Sturdy and Miss Muller had gone elsewhere and that evening cabbage curry with fish was prepared. Swami Saradananda, Swamiji, Goodwin and Mohendra sat down at the table. The palate was much gratified to savor cabbage cooked with fish, after a long time. Even if it was not cooked in the genuine Indian way, the imitation itself was good. Probably Goodwin did not take any, as he had become a complete vegetarian. Swami Saradananda too,
usually was, but whether he ate this dish on that day, I do not exactly recall. After dinner Swamiji was pacing the floor. He was very happy. Goodwin remarked, “You teach vegetarianism. You give lectures on vegetarian food – why have you just now eaten fish?” Swamiji laughed and said, “Well, the cook brought the fish. If I didn’t eat it, it would be thrown down the drain; instead I have thrown it into my stomach. What harm is there in that? He quoted a Sanskrit sloka: “I am not the enjoyer etc.” and began to gloss on it. “I never eat; the body is the receptacle and into it various objects are put.” Goodwin, a little annoyed, replied, “I don’t understand all that Sanskrit you are muttering.” Swamiji again tried to give a Vedantic reply. Goodwin, more heated now said, “You are trying to counter my words with words. What I want to know is, why you are eating fish?” Swamiji was very jolly that day. Making a face at Goodwin, he got him more worked up. There was no serious mood in him; he was simple as a child and irritated Goodwin by laughing and smiling. Then, quoting more Sanskrit he said: “When you are threatened, hold still; when you are on the crest of the wave, be forgiving; never be vengeful.” Then each of them went his way. The momentariness of knowledge The doctrine of momentary knowledge came up in one lecture. Our knowledge depends on qualities, but qualities are always changing. The permanent or eternal entity is not in the qualities. So our knowledge is coming in a momentary way. For a little while there is knowledge, but it cannot remain even for a moment. The qualities are under the power of time, space and causation and as these three are changing every moment, so must qualities be. So we know something one moment, but the very next moment it is erased and a new piece of knowledge arises. So an eternal ineradicable knowledge we cannot have. “But one may raise this objection: all this change that we see depends on knowledge; because there is knowledge, we are perceiving the change or changing objects. Due to the knowledge of an eternal unchanging, permanent entity, we are perceiving the momentary; without that, how could there be the knowledge of the active? Due to our present confusion it is supposed that we do not apprehend eternal and unbroken knowledge. But that is arising sui generis; just for the sake of reasoning and argumentation we are using the momentary knowledge. This is because of delusion. Swamiji used in his lectures many Indian philosophical terms. He would explain at length in English many technical words from Sanskrit philosophical texts. He would enliven any subject he took up. History of Gaya and Bodh-Gaya
“When Buddha was after enlightenment, and was wandering under the name Gautama, he came to Gaya and studied for a while with a certainrishi. The name of the place was Gayasirsha. In the heyday of the Buddhists it was regarded as very sacred. Later when the Hindu revival came, the Hindus could not altogether obliterate the place. They respected it for its sanctity but gave their own explanations. “In the Puranas there is the story of Vishnu’s battle with a daitya named Gayasura. The latter met defeat at the hands of Vishnu, who interred him in a mound of earth and kept him under it with his own foot. But between victor and vanquished, there was this bargain: that every day at this spot people would offer (the) rice balls (of sraddha rite) and if any day the offering was neglected, Gayasura would destroy the whole world. In this way the Hindus made use of Puranic stories about each Buddhist tirtha to dispel the Buddhist influence. Recalling past lives Swamiji told many stories from the “Jataka series” of Buddha’s former births, especially the one of the tigress. That day his face was very peaceful and he was full of love and bliss, as if experiencing fullness of love for all creatures. There was not a trace of hardness, only enthusiasm and bliss. His mood of joy became much more attractive than the Jataka tales. The appearance of his face became quite different; for Swamiji always used to say, “If I meditate on the brain of a Sankara, I become Sankara, if on the brain of a Buddha, I become Buddha.” In any case, that evening he seemed to be a new Buddha, recounting to his audience his own Jataka stories and the mood was much more than the lecture. He said that Lord Buddha was able to remember his previous lives. How many times he had been a wild animal, how many times a monkey, how many times one level of human being or another – all this he could recall. He further said that Kapila, the “father of psychology,” also could recall his past births. People ordinarily make the chief object of meditation either the future or the transcendental. But there is another type of meditation which looks backward: what I did this morning, or yesterday, or in previous years. Usually this process takes one back only to the period of the three-or-four-yearold, and most people cannot go back of that. But if someone, with tremendous energy breaks through the barrier, then one-and-a-half years, one year, six months – these ages yield to him, and even the embryonic condition he can remember. If this happens, he can know all about his former lives. But to come to this point of polarization is very difficult.
The stories of Narada, and Hercules, deluded by maya. [Here Mohendra attributes to Swamiji a long story in which the “Narada, bring me some water” story is mixed with the “Vishnu born as a pig” story; nothing in it about human wife and children. Narada dreams he is a pig. In a footnote Mohendra says the other version exists in the Puranas, but that Swamiji told it this way. So have editors “corrected” it in the Complete Works, or was this a different occasion? --Trs.] “Among the Greeks there is a story of Hercules which is quite similar to this. Hercules, performing twelve labors, got puffed up with pride. He took two peaks named Calpe and Abyla in his hands and separated them and ocean poured its waters over the feet of these two mountains. They are otherwise known as Gibraltar and Mt. Hacho. Proud Hercules was lying down on the far side of a mountain and began to rage and roar. ‘There is no hero like me; I can conquer anyone and can be conquered by none.’ Gradually his boasting increased until the heavens parted and Jupiter, king of gods, came overhead nearby. Jupiter asked everyone, ‘Where is this boasting coming from, and what does it mean?’ “’Down on earth,’ the gods replied, ‘a hero has been born named Hercules. Having performed twelve heroic labors, he is proclaiming his own glory in a loud voice.’ When Jupiter heard this he smiled and said to the blind boy Cupid, ‘Vanquish this haughty man at once.’ Cupid went up to Hercules and sat down. Finding him asleep, the flower-armed Cupid shot Hercules with flower arrows. He fell into a profound sleep and Cupid fled. “When he awoke, thinking it was not right to stay in one place for many days, he decided to go somewhere else. In a certain place he saw a very attractive young maiden sitting in the sun. No one was with her. Hearing her piteous, grieving cry, Hercules’ heart filled with compassion, and, falling in love with her, he began to live with her in great happiness. “To keep house various things are needed. Hercules sometimes carried pots of water on his shoulders, gathered fuel for fire, and gladly performed other such duties as a householder. Several years passed in this way. The wife was in great happiness to get for husband such a hero, and asked of him anything she wanted; he happily obeyed her. “One day Hercules was bringing from the forest a heap of fuel on his shoulders. Just then Jupiter came upon him and asked him where he was going with that fuel. Hercules no longer had his former power. Like an ordinary man he replied, ‘Lord, when I take home this fuel my wife will be able to cook; otherwise the cooking will be much delayed.’ Jupiter asked him what other work he had to do. “’Sir,’ said Hercules, ‘I have to draw and bring water. My wife cannot
always negotiate this rough and difficult path through the mountain, so I must carry water.’ ‘What else?’ asked Jupiter. ‘Sir,’ replied Hercules, ‘all kinds of work a householder must do. My wife just goes to her place and cooks the food. I eat it.’ Then Jupiter laughed and said, ‘Hercules, did you not boast that you were all-conquering, that none could vanquish you? Now you have become a bond-servant and are working at the command of your wife like a slave. Where now is your heroic behavior? Your all-conquering mood?’ At these words Hercules’ consciousness awoke and his vision of the woman and home vanished.” During the Maya-lectures Swamiji said “It is impossible for us to understand what kind of thing this maya is. All the questions we ask or can ask are within maya. Remaining within maya to ask about it or size it up, is impossible, for the question too, is maya and no answer can be given. It is the same questioning the same. But if an individual, through sadhana, can go beyond maya, he or she will be able to understand what She is and She has no more reality. Then maya has dissolved.” On individuality One day the question of what individuality is, came up. Swamiji said, “Our mind is always scattered in various directions; it is not able to remain in a still or steady state. We are always in a state of divisibility. We cannot stay in an undivided condition. We are always trying to come from divisibility to indivisibility. It is only when we reach that, that we shall have our full manifestation of individuality; meanwhile we are always trying to reach that.” There were many new ideas in this lecture. It was very powerful and as if a new light had fallen upon him. Swamiji spoke with great vigor that night. More on Swamiji’s lecture style When Swami Vivekananda’s mind would be raised to a very high state, he would say in a profound tone and with serious face, “It is so because it is so.” “I have seen Truth with perfect clarity, realized it. There is no need to doubt this. (i.e., “I am a truth-seer, I have found it; you try too; raise your mind to this plane and you will find it.)” He would speak in such a profound, unwavering, hushed and commanding voice that his whole audience was galvanized into accepting his word as truth. Such was the rhythmic vibration of his voice that at times it seemed the room
would split open in that power; as if the brains of the listeners would be blasted in all directions. It was difficult to bear that power, as if a blazing unquenchable fire had appeared in the middle of the house. What spirit or power is, could clearly be understood. And, really, it was as if the room were flowing with Brahmajnana and wisdom, and Swamiji, smiling, was sprinkling it around, offering anjali with his two hands. Whatever the reasoning, whatever the illustration, in whatever language it was couched, or how perfectly it was put, no one cared about that; there was a power – tangible, graspable, holdable – this the audience seemed clearly to experience. It was as if there were some kind of power touching their skin and penetrating into their flesh. Language, reason, argument – these are all inferior things: from inside Swami Vivekananda a power would come out, a tangible living thing – that was t he main thing about his lectures. It was not booklearning power, a philosopher’s power. From his language and argument one can get many sorts of ideas, but that he could make flow a stream of powerrays: this was the life and soul of his lectures. As he himself was full of brahmajnana and wisdom, so he was able to share it with others. But to make others grasp these was not easy, so a few days afterwards that power would be withdrawn [or removed]. That is why he often would say, “It is so because it is so.” Story of a remarkable sadhu In an evening lecture Swamiji related the story of the sadhu killed in the “Indian Mutiny.” A certain sadhu had been doing tapas at Allahabad, at the time of the battle. He was elderly and a man of extremely peaceful nature. A Muslim ruffian found him and senselessly stabbed him to death. A short while before he expired, some Hindu sepoys who had taken part in the Mutiny came upon him and discovered what had happened. The sepoys found the Muslim and brought him to the sadhu, saying, “Maharaj, give the order and we will finish off this ruffian.” With their weapons at the ready, the sepoys awaited his command. The old monk was losing blood in unstinted flow, and his life had almost ebbed away. Smiling a little, he said to the sepoys, “Do not cherish hatred toward this person. He too is my God. He is the Beloved. Everyone is my Lord, everyone is the Beloved.” Saying so, the sadhu expired. The assembled soldiers were dumbfounded to see such love and adherence to God. They performed the sadhu’s obsequies and went on their way. Swamiji told this story with such feeling and pathos that all were much moved. What love, and seeing of the ishta in all, on the part of the monk! –
Swamiji made everyone understand this. He told the story with such sweet devotion that the audience seemed to be seeing the series of events being enacted before their very eyes. The listeners, being Christians, remembered the crucifixion and heard this account with great feeling. Though it was only an incident, Swamji’s method of describing it with much facial expression and vocal inflection made it dramatically real to them. APPENDIX About the arrangement of subjects in this book. Although Swami Vivekananda at the time of Bhakti lectures spoke consistently about devotion and at the Advaita lectures only about monism, I [the author] have put different things in different places to give interest to the reader. But the daily events have been told sequentially. Goodwin did not really want to go to America, but agreed to Swamiji’s wish. He clearly said he did not have the fare. That day Swamiji had some pounds with him; he took them from his pocket and gave them to Goodwin, telling him to look after Swami Saradananda in every way. A newcomer in a foreign land, he was to be protected from difficulties. And he gave him many words of advice and told him whom to get in touch with. Goodwin agreed and bowed to the occasion. Fox wanted to go to Paris to see the city and was not acquainted with anyone there. So he requested of Miss Muller a letter of introduction. She knew French and wrote such a letter. Fox said that Miss Muller knew various languages and was quite learned, but due to her age [fifties] was very waspish, and no one could go on working with her. The following story Swamiji told at a Raja Yoga lecture and also in the dining room. Once in the United States an elderly lady came to him and asked what illness her mother had. Her mother was very aged and all her hair was white. When she sat at the dining-table she would see another old lady seated there, looking exactly like herself. When she extended her hand, there would be two hands, her own and that of the reflection lady. When she lay in bed she saw the double lying there. This lady told Swamiji all about her mother. Swamiji asked her to bring her mother there one day. When the old lady came she told it all to Swamiji herself. Then he taught her a special way to meditate; this much was all he told her. But the aged lady, in resorting to that method, had all her white hair turn black again, and all her facial wrinkles disappeared. The double that she used to see also underwent this transformation; she finally appeared younger than her own daughter. All the ladies at the Yoga lecture liked this story.
“Body is a magnet; whatever is in this universe is also in the human body. The human body, in attracting something outside, is trying to put it inside itself.” On his way to London, Mohendra had stopped in Colombo. There the father of Dharmapala, Don Carolis [has Mohendra spelled it right? Of what race?] ran a cabinet-maker’s shop, near the harbor. He was a fine man. This concludes Swami Yogeshananda’s English translation of relevant portions of Londone Swami Vivekananda by Mahendra Nath Datta