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The Final Days
Dec 1900 – July 04, 1902
If in this hell of a world one can bring a little joy and peace even for a day into the heart of a single person, that much alone is true; this I have learnt after suffering all my life; all else is mere moonshine.
(Source: Letter to Rakhal Feb 18 1902)
Second visit to America
The accounts were not submitted before, as the work is not yet finished; and I thought of submitting to my donor a complete account when the whole thing was finished. The work was begun only last year, as we had to wait for funds a long time, and my method is never to ask but wait for voluntary help.
I follow the same idea in all my work, as I am so conscious of my nature being positively displeasing to many, and wait till somebody wants me. I hold myself ready also to depart at a moment’s notice. In the matter of departure thus, I never feel bad about it or think much of it, as, in the constant roving life I lead, I am constantly doing it. Only so sorry, I trouble others without wishing it
Triumphant return to India
“And so,-” said the Swami, “though I often say strange things and angry things, yet remember that in my heart I never seriously mean to preach anything but love ! All these things will come right, only when we realize that we love each other.”
(Source: Notes of Some Wanderings)
First visit to America
In Chicago, the other day, a funny thing happened. The Raja of Kapurthala was here, and he was being lionised by some portion of Chicago society. I once met the Raja in the Fair grounds, but he was too big to speak with a poor Fakir. There was an eccentric Mahratta Brahmin selling nail-made pictures in the Fair, dressed in a dhoti. This fellow told the reporters all sorts of things against the Raja–, that he was a man of low caste, that those Rajas were nothing but slaves, and that they generally led immoral lives, etc., etc. And these truthful (?) editors, for which America is famous, wanted to give to the boy’s stories some weight; and so the next day they wrote huge columns in their papers about the description of a man of wisdom from India, meaning me–extolling me to the skies, and putting all sorts of words in my mouth, which I never even dreamt of, and ascribing to me all those remarks made by the Mahratta Brahmin about the Raja of Kapurthala. And it was such a good brushing that Chicago society gave up the Raja in hot haste. . . . These newspaper editors made capital out of me to give my countryman a brushing.
As a wandering monk
A wonderful phenomenon
Location: Kumbakonam ( Feb 1893)
In the said village lives a man of the Chetty caste, generally passing for an astrologer. I, with two other young men, went to see him. He was said to tell about anything a man thinks of. So, I wanted to put him to the test. Two months ago, I dreamt that my mother was dead and I was very anxious to know about her. My second was whether what my Guru had told me was right. The third was a test-question—a part of the Buddhistic mantra, in Tibetan tongue. These questions I determined upon, two days before going to this Govinda Chetty. Another young man had one of his sisters-in-law given poison to, by some unknown hand, from which she recovered. But he wanted to know the author of that delivery.
One day Ramakrishna tried to instruct Naren on the identity of the individual soul with Brahman.
Narendra left the room, and going to Hazra said, “How can this be? This jug is God, this cup is God and we too are God: nothing can be more preposterous!”
On hearing Naren’s laughter, Ramakrishna, who was in his room in a state of semi-consciousness, came out nude, with his cloth under his arm. He said, smiling, “Hello there what are you talking about?” Then touched Narendra and went into Samadhi.
Naren recalled what happened afterward:
The magic touch of the Master that day immediately brought a wonderful change over my mind. I was astounded to find that really there was nothing in the universe but God! I saw it quite clearly, but kept silent to see whether the impression would last; but it did not abate in the course of the day. I returned home, but there too, everything I saw appeared to be Brahman. I sat down to take my meal, but found that everything — the food, the plate, the person who served, and even myself was nothing but That. I ate a-morsel or two and sat still. I was startled by my mother’s words, “Why do you sit still? Finish your meal”, and then began to eat again. But all the while, whether eating or lying down, or going to College, I had the same experience and felt myself always in a sort of trance. While walking in the streets, I noticed cabs plying, but I did not feel inclined to move out of the way. I felt that the cabs and myself were one. There was no sensation in my limbs, which seemed were going to become paralysed.
(As quoted by the ‘Life of Swami Vivekananda by his Eastern and Western Disciples’)
It is impossible to give others any idea of the ineffable joy we derived from the presence of the Master. It is really beyond our understanding how he could train us, without our knowing it, through fun and play, and thus mold our spiritual life. As the master wrestler proceeds with great caution and restraint with the beginner, now over powering him in the struggle with great difficulty as it were, again allowing himself to be defeated to strengthen the pupil’s self confidence-in exactly the same manner did Shri Ramakrishna handle us. Realizing that the Atman [Self], the source of infinite strength, exists in every individual, pigmy though he might be, he was able to see the potential giant in all. He could clearly discern the latent spiritual power which would in the fullness of time manifest itself. Holding up that bright picture to view, he would speak highly of us and encourage us. Again he would warn us lest we should obstruct this future consummation by becoming entangled in worldly desires, and moreover he would keep us under control by carefully observing even the minute details of our life. All this was done silently and unobtrusively. That was the secret of his training of the disciples and of his molding of their lives. Once I felt that I could not practice deep concentration during meditation. I told him of it and sought his advice and direction. He told me his personal experience in the matter and gave me instructions. I remember that as I sat down to meditate during the early hours of the morning, my mind would be disturbed and diverted by the shrill note of the whistle of a neighboring jute mill. I told him about it, and he advised me to concentrate my mind on the sound of the whistle itself. I followed his advice and derived much benefit from it. On another occasion I felt difficulty in totally forgetting my body during meditation and concentrating the mind wholly on the ideal. I went to him for counsel, and he gave me the very instruction which he himself had received from Totapuri while practicing Samadhi according to Vedantic disciplines. He sharply pressed between my eyebrows with his fingernail and said, “Now concentrate your mind on this painful sensation!” I found I could concentrate easily on that sensation as long as I liked, and during that period I completely let go the consciousness of the other parts of my body, not to speak of their causing any distraction hindering my meditation: The solitude of the Panchavati, associated with the various spiritual realizations of the Master, was also the most suitable place for our meditation. Besides meditation and spiritual exercises, we used to spend a good deal of time there in sheer fun and merry-making. Shri Ramakrishna also joined in with us, and by taking part enhanced our innocent pleasure. We used to run and skip about, climb on the trees, swing from the creepers and at times hold merry picnics. On the first day we picnicked the Master noticed that I had cooked the food, and he partook of it. I knew that he could not take food unless it was cooked by Brahmins, and therefore I had arranged for his meal at the Kali temple. But he said, “It won’t be wrong for me to take food from such a pure soul as yourself.” In spite of my repeated remonstrations, he enjoyed the food I had cooked that day.
Vivekananda (quoted by Swami Saradananda) described a “vision” he had after meditation in his home during his college days:
When I kept my mind still and devoid of all objects, there flowed in it a current of serene bliss. Under its influence, I felt a sort of intoxication for a long time even after the end of the meditation; so I did not feel inclined to leave my seat and get up immediately. One day when I was sitting in that condition at the end of the meditation, I saw the wonderful figure of a monk appear suddenly-from where I did not know-and stand before me at a little distance, filling the room with a divine effulgence. He was in ochre robes with a Kamandalu (water-pot) in his hand. His face bore such a calm and serene expression of inwardness born of indifference to all things, that I was amazed and felt much drawn to him. He walked towards me with a slow step, his eyes steadfastly fixed on me, as if he wanted to say something. But I was seized with fear and could not keep still. I got up from my seat, opened the door, and quickly left the room. The next moment I thought, “Why this foolish fear?” I became bold and went back into the room to listen to the monk, who, alas, was no longer there. I waited long in vain, feeling dejected and repenting that I had been so stupid as to flee without listening to him. I have seen many monks, but never have I seen such an extraordinary expression on any other face. That face has been indelibly printed on my heart. It may have been a hallucination; but very often I think that I had the good Fortune of seeing Lord Buddha that day.
School and College Days
At one time my ideal was to drive a strong pair of horses; at another time I thought, if I could make a certain kind of sweetmeat, I should be perfectly happy; later I imagined that I should be entirely satisfied if I had a wife and children and plenty of money. Today I laugh at all these ideals as mere childish nonsense.
A hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”