Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda - Vol-9
A DUSKY PHILOSOPHER FROM INDIA
(New Discoveries, Vol. 5, pp. 389-94.)
(To preserve the historical authenticity of the newspaper reports in this section, their original spelling has been largely retained; however, their punctuation has been made consistent with the style of the Complete Works.- Publisher.)
[An interview by Blanche Partington, San Francisco Chronicle, March 18, 1900]
. . . . . .. . . Bowing very low in Eastern fashion on his entrance to the room, then holding out his hand in good American style, the dusky philosopher from the banks of the Ganges gave friendly greeting to the representative of that thoroughly Occidental institution, the daily press.
. . . I asked for a picture to illustrate this article, and when someone handed me a certain "cut" which has been extensively used in lecture advertisements here, he uttered a mild protest against its use.
"But that does not look like you", said I.
"No, it is as if I wished to kill someone", he said smiling, "like - like -"
"Othello", I inserted rashly. But the little audience of friends only smiled as the Swami made laughing recognition of the absurd resemblance of the picture to the jealous Moor. But I do not use that picture.
"Is it true, Swami", I asked, "that when you went home after lecturing in the Congress of Religions after the World's Fair, princes knelt at your feet, a half dozen of the ruling sovereigns of India dragged your carriage through the streets, as the papers told us? We do not treat our priests so".
"That is not good to talk of", said the Swami. "But it is true that religion rules there, not dollars."
"What about caste?"
"What of your Four Hundred?" he replied, smiling. "Caste in India is an institution hardly explicable or intelligible to the Occidental mind. It is acknowledged to be an imperfect institution, but we do not recognize a superior social result from your attempts at class distinction. India is the only country which has so far succeeded in imposing a permanent caste upon her people, and we doubt if an exchange for Western superstitions and evils would be for her advantage."
"But under such regime - where a man may not eat this nor drink that, nor marry the other - the freedom you teach would be impossible", I ventured.
"It is impossible", assented the Swami; "but until India has outgrown the necessity for caste laws, caste laws will remain". "Is it true that you may not eat food cooked by a foreigner - unbeliever?" I asked.
"In India the cook - who is not called a servant - must be of the same or higher caste than those for whom the food is cooked, as it is considered that whatever a man touches is impressed by his personality, and food, with which a man builds up the body through which he expresses himself, is regarded as being liable to such impression. As to the foods we eat, it is assumed that certain kinds of food nourish certain properties worthy of cultivation, and that others retard our spiritual growth. For instance, we do not kill to eat. Such food would be held to nourish the animal body, at the expense of the spiritual body, in which the soul is said to be clothed on its departure from this physical envelope, besides laying the sin of blood-guiltiness upon the butcher."
"Ugh!" I exclaimed involuntarily, an awful vision of reproachful little lambs, little chicken ghosts, hovering cow spirits - I was always afraid of cows anyway - rising up before me.
"You see", explained the Brahmin [Kshatriya], "the universe is all one, from the lowest insect to the highest Yogi. It is all one, we are all one, you and I are one -". Here the Occidental audience smiled, the unconscious monk chanting the oneness of things in Sanskrit and the consequent sin of taking any life.
. . . He was pacing up and down the room most of the time during our talk, occasionally standing over the register - it was a chill morning for this child of the sun - and doing with grace and freedom whatever occurred to him, even, at length, smoking a little.
"You, yourself, have not yet attained supreme control over all desires", I ventured. The Swami's frankness is infectious.
"No, madam", and he smiled the broad and brilliant smile of a child; "Do I look it?" But the Swami, from the land of hasheesh and dreams, doubtless did not connect my query with its smoky origin.
"Is it usual among the Hindoo priesthood to marry?" I ventured again.
"It is a matter of individual choice", replied this member of the Hindoo priesthood. "One does not marry that he may not be in slavery to a woman and children, or permit the slavery of a woman to him."
"But what is to become of the population?" urged the anti-Malthusian.
"Are you so glad to have been born?" retorted the Eastern thinker, his large eyes flashing scorn. "Can you conceive of nothing higher than this warring, hungry, ignorant world? Do not fear that the you may be lost, though the sordid, miserable consciousness of the now may go. What worth having [would be] gone?
"The child comes crying into the world. Well may he cry! Why should we weep to leave it? Have you thought" - here the sunny smile came back - "of the different modes of East and West of expressing the passing away? We say of the dead man, 'He gave up his body'; you put it, 'he gave up the ghost'. How can that be? Is it the dead body that permits the ghost to depart? What curious inversion of thought!"
"But, on the whole, Swami, you think it better to be comfortably dead than a living lion?" persisted the defender of populations.
"Swâhâ, Swaha, so be it!" shouted the monk.
"But how is it that under such philosophy men consent to live at all?"
"Because a man's own life is sacred as any other life, and one may not leave chapters unlearned", returned the philosopher. "Add power and diminish time, and the school days are shorter; as the learned professor can make the marble in twelve years which nature took centuries to form. It is all a question of time."
"India, which has had this teaching so long, has not yet learned her lesson?"
"No, though she is perhaps nearer than any other country, in that she has learned to love mercy."
"What of England in India?" I asked.
"But for English rule I could not be here now", said the monk, "though your lowest free-born American Negro holds higher position in India politically than is mine. Brahmin and coolie, we are all 'natives'. But it is all right, in spite of the misunderstanding and oppression. England is the Tharma [Karma?] of India, attracted inevitably by some inherent weakness, past mistakes, but from her blood and fibre will come the new national hope for my countrymen. I am a loyal subject of the Empress of India!" and here the Swami salaamed before an imaginary potentate, bowing very low, perhaps too low for reverence.
"But such an apostle of freedom - ", I murmured.
"She is the widow for many years, and such we hold in high worth in India", said the philosopher seriously. "As to freedom, yes, I believe the goal of all development is freedom, law and order. There is more law and order in the grave than anywhere else - try it."
"I must go", I said. "I have to catch a train".
"That is like all Americans", smiled the Swami, and I had a glimpse of all eternity in his utter restfulness. "You must catch this car or that train always. Is there not another, later?"
But I did not attempt to explain the Occidental conception of the value of time to this child of the Orient, realizing its utter hopelessness and my own renegade sympathy. It must be delightful beyond measure to live in the land of "time enough". In the Orient there seems time to breathe, time to think, time to live; as the Swami says, what have we in exchange? We live in time; they in eternity.
"WE ARE HYPNOTIZED INTO WEAKNESS BY OUR SURROUNDINGS"
(New Discoveries, Vol. 5, pp. 396-98.)
[An interview by the San Francisco Examiner, March 18, 1900]
Hindoo Philosopher Who Strikes at the Root of Some
Occidental Evils and Tells How We Must Worship God
Simply and Not with Many Vain Prayers.
. . . . . .
One American friend he may be assured of - the Swami is a charming person to interview.
Pacing about the little room where he is staying, he kept the small audience of interviewer and friend entertained for a couple of hours.
"Tell you about the English in India? But I do not wish to talk of politics. But from the higher standpoint, it is true that but for the English rule I could not be here. We natives know that it is through the intermixture of English blood and ideas that the salvation of India will come. Fifty years ago, all the literature and religion of the race were locked up in the Sanskrit language; today the drama and the novel are written in the vernacular, and the literature of religion is being translated. That is the work of the English, and it is unnecessary, in America, to descant upon the value of the education of the masses."
"What do you think of the Boers War?" was asked.
"Oh! Have you seen the morning paper? But I do not wish to discuss politics. English and Boers are both in the wrong. It is terrible - terrible - the bloodshed! English will conquer, but at what fearful cost! She seems the nation of Fate."
And the Swami with a smile, began chanting the Sanskrit for an unwillingness to discuss politics.
Then he talked long of ancient Russian history, and of the wandering tribes of Tartary, and of the Moorish rule in Spain, and displaying an astonishing memory and research. To this childlike interest in all things that touch him is doubtless due much of the curious and universal knowledge that he seems to possess.
(New Discoveries, Vol. 5, p. 138.)
From Miss Josephine MacLeod's February 1908 letter to Mary Hale, in which she described Swami Vivekananda's response to Alberta Sturges's question:
ALBERTA STURGES: Is there no happiness in marriage?
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: Yes, Alberta, if marriage is entered into as a great austerity - and everything is given up - even principle!
LINE OF DEMARCATION
(New Discoveries, Vol. 5, p. 225.)
From Mrs. Alice Hansbrough's reminiscences of a question-answer exchange following the class entitled "Hints on Practical Spirituality":
Q: Swami, if all things are one, what is the difference between a cabbage and a man?
A: Stick a knife into your leg, and you will see the line of demarcation.
(New Discoveries, Vol. 5, p. 276.)
Alice Hansbrough's record of a question-answer session after a class lecture:
Q: Then, Swami, what you claim is that all is good?
A: By no means. My claim is that all is not - only God is! That makes all the difference.
(New Discoveries, Vol. 6, p. 11-12.)
From Alice Hansbrough's reminiscences of a question-answer session following one of Swami Vivekananda's San Francisco classes pertaining to renunciation:
WOMAN STUDENT: Well, Swami, what would become of the world if everyone renounced?
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: Madam, why do you come to me with that lie on your lips? You have never considered anything in this world but your own pleasure!
SHRI RAMAKRISHNA'S DISCIPLE
(New Discoveries, Vol. 6, p. 12.)
Mrs. Edith Allan described a teacher-student exchange in one of Swami Vivekananda's San Francisco classes:
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: I am the disciple of a man who could not write his own name, and I am not worthy to undo his shoes. How often have I wished I could take my intellect and throw it into the Ganges!
STUDENT: But, Swami, that is the part of you I like best.
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: That is because you are a fool, Madam - like I am.
THE MASTER'S DIVINE INCARNATION
(New Discoveries, Vol. 6, p. 17.)
From Mrs. Edith Allan's reminiscences:
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: I have to come back once more. The Master said I am to come back once more with him.
MRS. ALLAN: You have to come back because Shri Ramakrishna says so?
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: Souls like that have great power, Madam.
A PRIVATE ADMISSION
(New Discoveries, Vol. 6, p. 121.)
From Mrs. Edith Allan's reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda's stay in northern California, 1900:
WOMAN STUDENT: Oh, if I had only lived earlier, I could have seen Shri Ramakrishna!
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA (turning quietly to her): You say that, and you have seen me?
(New Discoveries, Vol. 6, p. 136.)
From Mr. Thomas Allan's reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda's visit to Alameda, California, 1900:
MR. ALLAN: Well, Swami, I see you are in Alameda!
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: No, Mr. Allan, I am not in Alameda; Alameda is in me.
"THIS WORLD IS A CIRCUS RING"
(New Discoveries, Vol. 6, p. 156.)
From Mrs. Alice Hansbrough's reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda's conversation with Miss Bell at Camp Taylor, California, in May 1900:
MISS BELL: This world is an old schoolhouse where we come to learn our lessons.
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: Who told you that? [Miss Bell could not remember.] Well, I don't think so. I think this world is a circus ring in which we are the clowns tumbling.
MISS BELL: Why do we tumble, Swami?
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: Because we like to tumble. When we get tired, we will quit.
(The Complete Works of Sister Nivedita, Vol. I, p. 118.)
Sister Nivedita's reminiscence of a conversation with Swami Vivekananda at the time she was learning the Kâli worship:
SISTER NIVEDITA: Perhaps, Swamiji, Kali is the vision of Shiva! Is She?
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: Well! Well! Express it in your own way. Express it in your own way!
TRAINING UNDER SHRI RAMAKRISHNA
(The Complete Works of Sister Nivedita, Vol. I, pp. 159-60.)
While on board a ship to England, Swami Vivekananda was touched by the childlike devotion of the ship's servants:
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: You see, I love our Mohammedans!
SISTER NIVEDITA: Yes, but what I want to understand is this habit of seeing every people from their strongest aspect. Where did it come from? Do you recognize it in any historical character? Or is it in some way derived from Shri Ramakrishna?
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: It must have been the training under Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. We all went by his path to some extent. Of course it was not so difficult for us as he made it for himself. He would eat and dress like the people he wanted to understand, take their initiation, and use their language. "One must learn", he said, "to put oneself into another man's very soul". And this method was his own! No one ever before in India became Christian and Mohammedan and Vaishnava, by turn!
Excerpts from Sister Nivedita's Book
NOTES OF SOME WANDERINGS WITH THE
[Excerpts from the book by Sister Nivedita]
Note: In the following work only those extracts which present Swami Vivekananda’s ideas or direct quotations have been printed. Descriptions marking the background context of these talks have also been retained for the sake of clarity and continuity. Ellipses mark the deleted portions. Spelling and punctuation have been made to conform to the style of the Complete Works.
PERSONS: The Swami Vivekananda, Gurubhais, (Spiritual brethren; disciples of one and the same master are so called.) and a party of European guests and disciples, amongst whom were Dhira Mata, the "Steady Mother" [Mrs. Ole Bull]; one whose name was Jaya [Miss Josephine MacLeod]; and Sister Nivedita. (Dhira Mata and Jaya were Americans; Nivedita was British. - Publisher.)
PLACE: Different parts of India.
TIME: The year 1898.
Beautiful have been the days of this year. In them the Ideal has become the Real. First in our riverside cottage at Belur; then in the Himalayas, at Naini Tal and Almora; afterwards wandering here and there through Kashmir - everywhere have come hours never to be forgotten, words that will echo through our lives forever, and once, at least, a glimpse of the Beatific Vision.
It has been all play.
We have seen a love that would be one with the humblest and most ignorant, seeing the world for the moment through his eyes, as if criticism were not; we have laughed over the colossal caprice of genius; we have warmed ourselves at heroic fires; and we have been present, as it were, at the awakening of the Holy Child.
But there has been nothing grim or serious about any of these things. Pain has come close to all of us. Solemn anniversaries have been and gone. But sorrow was lifted into a golden light, where it was made radiant and did not destroy.Fain, if I could, would I describe our journeys. Even as I write I see the irises in bloom at Baramulla; the young rice beneath the poplars at Islamabad; starlight scenes in Himalayan forests; and the royal beauties of Delhi and the Taj. One longs to attempt some memorial of these. It would be worse than useless. Not, then, in words, but in the light of memory they are enshrined forever, together with the kindly and gentle folk who dwell among them and whom we trust always to have left the gladder for our coming.
We have learnt something of the mood in which new faiths are born and of the persons who inspire such faiths. For we have been with one who drew all men to him - listening to all, feeling with all and refusing none. We have known a humility that wiped out all littleness, a renunciation that would die for scorn of oppression and pity of the oppressed, a love that would bless even the oncoming feet of torture and of death. We have joined hands with that woman who washed the feet of the Lord with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head. We have lacked not the occasion, but her passionate consciousness of self.
Seated under a tree in the garden of dead emperors there came to us a vision of all the rich and splendid things of Earth, offering themselves as a shrine for the great of soul. The storied windows of cathedrals and the jewelled thrones of kings, the banners of great captains and the vestments of the priests, the pageants of cities and the retreats of the proud - all came and all were rejected.
In the garments of the beggar, despised by the alien, worshipped by the people, we have seen him; and only the bread of toil, the shelter of cottage roofs, and the common road across the cornfields seem real enough for the background to this life.. . . Amongst his own the ignorant loved him as much as scholars and statesmen. The boatmen watched the river, in his absence, for his return, and servants disputed with guests to do him service. And through it all the veil of playfulness was never dropped. "They played with the Lord" and instinctively they knew it.
To those who have known such hours, life is richer and sweeter, and in the long nights even the wind in the palm trees seems to cry: "Mahadeva! Mahadeva! Mahadeva!"
THE HOUSE ON THE GANGES
PLACE: A cottage at Belur, beside the Ganges.
TIME: March to May, 1898.
Of the home by the Ganges the Master had said to one, "You will find that little house of Dhira Mata like heaven, for it is all love, from beginning to end.
It was so indeed. Within, an unbroken harmony, and without, everything alike beautiful - the green stretch of grass, the tall coconut palms, the little brown villages in the jungle, and the Nilkantha that built her nest in a tree - top beside us, on purpose to bring us the blessings of Shiva. In the morning the shadows lay behind the house, but in the afternoons we could sit in front worshipping the Ganges herself - great leonine mother! - and in sight of Dakshineswar.
There came one and another with traditions of the past, and we learnt of the Master's eight years' wanderings; of the name changed from village to village; of the Nirvikalpa Samâdhi; and of that sacred sorrow, too deep for words or for common sight, that one who loved had alone seen. And there too came the Master himself, with his stories of Umâ and Shiva, of Râdhâ and Krishna, and his fragments of song and poetry.
It seemed as if he knew that the first material of a new consciousness must be a succession of vivid but isolated experiences, poured out without proper sequence so as to provoke the mind of the learner to work for its own conception of order and relation. . . . For the most part it was the Indian religions that he portrayed for us-today dealing with one and tomorrow with another - his choice guided, seemingly, by the whim of the moment. But it was not religion only that he poured out upon us. Sometimes it would be history. Again, it would be folk-lore. On still another occasion it would be the manifold anomalies and inconsistencies of race, caste and custom. In fact India herself became, as heard in him, as the last and noblest of the Purânas, uttering itself through his lips.
Another point in which he had caught a great psychological secret was that of never trying to soften for us that which would at first sight be difficult or repellent. In matters Indian he would rather put forward, in its extreme form at the beginning of our experience, all that might seem impossible for European minds to enjoy. Thus he would quote, for instance, some verses about Gauri and Shankar in a single form:
On one side grows the hair in long black curls,
And on the other, corded like rope.
On one side are seen the beautiful garlands,
On the other, bone earrings and snake-like coils.
One side is white with ashes, like the snow mountains,
The other, golden as the light of dawn.
For He, the Lord, took a form,
And that was a divided form,
Half-woman and half-man
. . . . . . .
Whatever might be the subject of the conversation, it ended always on the note of the infinite. . . . He might appear to take up any subject - literary, ethnological or scientific - but he always made us feel it as an illustration of the Ultimate Vision. There was for him nothing secular. He had a loathing for bondage and a horror of those who "cover chains with flowers", but he never failed to make the true critic's distinction between this and the highest forms of art.
One day we were receiving European guests and he entered into a long talk about Persian poetry. Then suddenly, finding himself quoting the poem that says, "For one mole on the face of my Beloved, I would give all the wealth of Samarkand!" he turned and said energetically, "I would not give a straw, you know, for the man who was incapable of appreciating a love song!" His talk too teemed with epigrams.
It was that same afternoon, in the course of a long political argument, that he said, "In order to become a nation, it appears that we need a common hate as well as a common love". Several months later he remarked that before one who had a mission he never talked of any of the gods save Uma and Shiva. For Shiva and the Mother made the great workers. Yet I have sometimes wondered if he knew at this time how the end of every theme was Bhakti. Much as he dreaded the luxury of spiritual emotion for those who might be enervated by it, he could not help giving glimpses of what it meant to be consumed with the intoxication of God. And so he would chant for us such poems as:
They have made Radha queen, in the beautiful groves of Vrindaban.
At her gate stands Krishna, on guard.
His flute is singing all the time:
Radha is about to distribute infinite wealth of love.
Though I am guard, all the world may enter.
Come all ye who thirst! Say only 'Glory unto Radha!'
Enter the region of love!
Or he would give us the great antiphonal Chorus of the Cowherds, written by his friend: (The Bengali dramatist Girish Chandra Ghosh.)
Men: Thou art the Soul of souls,
With thy blue eyes.
Women: Thou dark One! Thou
Shepherd of Vrindaban!
Kneeling at the feet of the Shepherdesses.
Men: My soul sings the praise of the glory
of the Lord,
Who took the human form.
Women: Thy beauty for us, the Gopis.
Men: Thou Lord of Sacrifice.
Saviour of the weak.
Women: Who lovest Radha and thy body floats on its
. . . . . .
. . . At this time the Swami kept the custom of coming to the cottage early and spending the morning hours there, and again returning in the late afternoon. On the second morning of this visit, however - Friday, the Christian feast of the Annunciation - he took us all three back to the Math, and there in the worship-room was held a little service of initiation where one was made a Brahmachârini. That was the happiest of mornings.
After the service we were taken upstairs. The Swami put on the ashes and bone-earrings and matted locks of a Shiva-Yogi and sang and played to us - Indian music on Indian instruments - for an hour.
And in the evening in our boat on the Ganges, he opened his heart to us and told us much of his questions and anxieties regarding the trust that he held from his own Master.
Another week and he was gone to Darjeeling; and till the day that the plague declaration brought him back, we saw him again no more.
Then two of us met him in the house of our Holy Mother. The political sky was black. It seemed as if a storm were about to burst. . . . Plague, panic and riot were doing their fell work. And the Master turned to the two and said, "There are some who scoff at the existence of Kâli. Yet today She is out there amongst the people. They are frantic with fear, and the soldiery have been called to deal out death. Who can say that God does not manifest Himself as evil as well as good? But only the Hindu dares to worship Him in the evil".
He had come back and the old life was resumed once more, as far as could be, seeing that an epidemic was in prospect and that measures were on hand to give the people confidence. As long as this possibility darkened the horizon, he would not leave Calcutta. But it passed away, and those happy days with it, and the time came that we should go.
AT NAINI TAL AND ALMORA
PERSONS: The Swami Vivekananda, Gurubhâis, and a party of Europeans and disciples, amongst whom were Dhira Mata, the "Steady Mother"; one whose name was Jaya; and Nivedita.
PLACE: The Himalayas.
TIME: May 11 to May 25, 1898.
We were a large party, or, indeed, two parties, that left Howrah station on Wednesday evening and on Friday morning came in sight of the Himalayas. . . .
Naini Tal was made beautiful by three things - the Master's pleasure in introducing to us his disciple the Raja of Khetri; the dancing girls who met us and asked us where to find him, and were received by him in spite of the remonstrances of others; and by the Mohammedan gentleman who said, "Swamiji, if in after-times any claim you as an Avatâra, an especial incarnation of the Deity - remember that I, a Mohammedan, am the first!"
It was here too that we heard a long talk on Ram Mohan Roy in which he pointed out three things as the dominant notes of this teacher's message - his acceptance of the Vedanta, his preaching of patriotism, and the love that embraced the Mussulman equally with the Hindu. In all these things he claimed himself to have taken up the task that the breadth and foresight of Ram Mohan Roy had mapped out. The incident of the dancing girls occurred in consequence of our visit to the two temples at the head of the tarn. . . . Here, offering worship, we found two nautch-women. When they had finished, they came up to us, and we, in broken language, entered into conversation with them. We took them for respectable ladies of the town and were much astonished later at the storm which had evidently passed over the Swami's audience at his refusal to have them turned away. Am I mistaken in thinking that it was in connection with these dancing-women of Naini Tal that he first told us the story, many times repeated, of the nautch-girl of Khetri? He had been angry at the invitation to see her, but being prevailed upon to come, she sang:
O Lord, look not upon my evil qualities!
Thy name, O Lord, is Same-Sightedness.
Make us both the same Brahman! One piece of iron is the knife in the hand of the butcher,
And another piece of iron is the image in the temple.
But when they touch the philosopher's stone,
Both alike turn to gold! One drop of water is in the sacred Jamuna,
And one is foul in a ditch by the roadside.
But when they fall into the Ganges,
Both alike become holy! So, Lord, look not upon my evil qualities!
Thy name, O Lord, is Same-Sightedness.
Make us both the same Brahman!
And then, said the Master of himself, the scales fell from his eyes, and seeing that all are indeed one, he condemned no more. . . .
It was late in the afternoon when we left Naini Tal for Almora, and night overtook us while still travelling through the forest. . . . till we reached a quaintly placed Dak bungalow, on the mountain side in the midst of trees. There after some time Swamiji arrived with his party, full of fun and keen in his appreciation of everything that concerned the comfort of his guests. . . .From the day that we arrived at Almora the Swami renewed his habit of coming over to us at our early breakfast and spending some hours in talk. Then and always he was an exceedingly light sleeper, and I imagine that his visit to us, early as the hour might be, was often paid during the course of his return with his monks from a still earlier walk. Sometimes, but rarely, we saw him again in the evening, either meeting him when out for a walk or going ourselves to Captain Sevier's, where he and his party were staying, and seeing him there. And once he came at that time to call on us.
Into these morning talks at Almora a strange new element, painful but salutary to remember, had crept. There appeared to be on the one side a curious bitterness and distrust, and on the other, irritation and defiance. The youngest of the Swami's disciples at this time, it must be remembered, was an English woman, and of how much this fact meant intellectually - what a strong bias it implied, and always does imply, in the reading of India, what an idealism of the English race and all their deeds and history - the Swami himself had had no conception till the day after her initiation at the monastery. Then he had asked her some exultant question, as to which nation she now belonged, and had been startled to find with what a passion of loyalty and worship she regarded the English flag, giving to it much of the feeling that an Indian woman would give to her Thakur. His surprise and disappointment at the moment were scarcely perceptible. A startled look, no more. Nor did his discovery of the superficial way in which this disciple had joined herself with his people in any degree affect his confidence and courtesy during the remaining weeks spent in the plains.
But with Almora it seemed as if a going-to-school had commenced. . . . It was never more than this; never the dictating of opinion or creed; never more than emancipation from partiality. Even at the end of the terrible experience when this method, as regarded race and country, was renounced, never to be taken up systematically again, the Swami did not call for any confession of faith, any declaration of new opinion. He dropped the whole question. His listener went free. But he had revealed a different standpoint in thought and feeling, so completely and so strongly as to make it impossible for her to rest, until later, by her own labours, she had arrived at a view in which both these partial presentments stood rationalized and accounted for. "Really, patriotism like yours is sin!" he exclaimed once, many weeks later, when the process of obtaining an uncoloured judgement on some incident had been more than commonly exasperating. "All that I want you to see is that most people's actions are the expression of self-interest, and you constantly oppose to this the idea that a certain race are all angels. Ignorance so determined is wickedness!" . . .
These morning talks at Almora, then, took the form of assaults upon deep-rooted preconceptions - social, literary and artistic - or of long comparisons of Indian and European history and sentiments, often containing extended observations of very great value. One characteristic of the Swami was the habit of attacking the abuses of a country or society openly and vigorously when he was in its midst, whereas after he had left it, it would often seem as if nothing but its virtues were remembered by him. He was always testing his disciples, and the manner of these particular discourses was probably adopted in order to put to the proof the courage and sincerity of one who was both woman and European.
MORNING TALKS AT ALMORA
TIME: May and June, 1898.
The first morning the talk was that of the central ideals of civilization - in the West, truth; in the East, chastity. He justified Hindu marriage customs as springing from the pursuit of this ideal and from the woman's need of protection, in combination. And he traced out the relation of the whole subject to the philosophy of the Absolute.
Another morning he began by observing that as there were four main castes - Brahmin, Kshatriya, Bâniyâ [Vaishya], Shudra - so there were four great national functions: the religious or priestly, fulfilled by the Hindus; the military, by the Roman Empire; the mercantile, by England today; and the democratic, by America in the future. And here he launched off into a glowing prophetic forecast of how America would yet solve the problems of the Shudra - the problems of freedom and co-operation - and turned to relate to a non-American listener the generosity of the arrangements which that people had attempted to make for their aborigines.
Again it would be an eager résumé of the history of India or of the Moguls, whose greatness never wearied him. Every now and then throughout the summer he would break out into descriptions of Delhi and Agra. Once he described the Taj as "a dimness, and again a dimness, and there - a grave!"
Another time he spoke of Shah Jehan, and then, with a burst of enthusiasm: "Ah! He was the glory of his line! A feeling for and discrimination of beauty that are unparalleled in history. And an artist himself! I have seen a manuscript illuminated by him which is one of the art treasures of India. What a genius!" Oftener still, it was Akbar of whom he would tell, almost with tears in his voice and a passion easier to understand, beside that undomed tomb, open to sun and wind - the grave of Secundra at Agra.
But all the more universal forms of human feeling were open to the Master. In one mood he talked of China as if she were the treasure-house of the world, and told us of the thrill with which he saw inscriptions in old Bengali (Kutil?) characters over the doors of Chinese temples.
Few things could be more eloquent of the vagueness of Western ideas regarding Oriental peoples than the fact that one of his listeners alleged untruthfulness as a notorious quality of that race. . . . The Swami would have none of it. Untruthfulness! Social rigidity! What were these, except very, very relative terms? And as to untruthfulness in particular, could commercial life or social life or any other form of co-operation go on for a day if men did not trust men? Untruthfulness as a necessity of etiquette? And how was that different from the Western idea? Is the Englishman always glad and always sorry at the proper place? But there is still a difference of degree? Perhaps - but only of degree!
Or he might wander as far afield as Italy, that "greatest of the countries of Europe - land of religion and of art; alike of imperial organization and of Mazzini; mother of ideas, of culture and of freedom!
One day it was Shivaji and the Mahrattas and the year's wandering as a Sannyâsin that won him home to Raigarh. "And to this day", said the Swami, "authority in India dreads the Sannyasin, lest he conceals beneath his yellow garb another Shivaji".
Often the enquiry "Who and what are the Aryans?" absorbed his attention; and holding that their origin was complex, he would tell us how in Switzerland he had felt himself to be in China, so like were the types. He believed too that the same was true of some parts of Norway. Then there were scraps of information about countries and physiognomies, an impassioned tale of the Hungarian scholar who traced the Huns to Tibet, and lies buried in Darjeeling and so on. . . .Sometimes the Swami would deal with the rift between Brahmins and Kshatriyas, painting the whole history of India as a struggle between the two and showing that the latter had always embodied the rising, fetter-destroying impulses of the nation. He could give excellent reason too for the faith that was in him that the Kâyasthas of modern Bengal represented the pre-Mauryan Kshatriyas. He would portray the two opposing types of culture: the one, classical, intensive and saturated with an ever-deepening sense of tradition and custom; the other, defiant, impulsive and liberal in its outlook. It was part of a deep-lying law of the historic development that Râma, Krishna and Buddha had all arisen in the kingly, and not in the priestly caste. And in this paradoxical moment Buddhism was reduced to a caste-smashing formula - "a religion invented by the Kshatriyas" as a crushing rejoinder to Brahminism!
That was a great hour indeed when he spoke of Buddha; for, catching a word that seemed to identify him with its anti-Brahminical spirit, an uncomprehending listener said, "Why, Swami, I did not know that you were a Buddhist!
"Madam", he said, rounding on her, his whole face aglow with the inspiration of that name, "I am the servant of the servants of the servants of Buddha. Who was there ever like him? - the Lord - who never performed one action for himself - with a heart that embraced the whole world! So full of pity that he - prince and monk - would give his life to save a little goat! So loving that he sacrificed himself to the hunger of a tigress! - to the hospitality of a pariah and blessed him! And he came into my room when I was a boy and I fell at his feet! For I knew it was the Lord Himself!
Many times he spoke of Buddha in this fashion, sometimes at Belur and sometimes afterwards. And once he told us the story of Ambâpâli, the beautiful courtesan who feasted him. . . .
National feeling did not have it all its own way. For one morning when the chasm seemed to be widest, there was a long talk on Bhakti - that perfect identity with the Beloved that the devotion of Ray Ramananda, the Bengali nobleman, before Chaitanya so beautifully illustrates:
Four eyes met. There were changes in two souls.
And now I cannot remember whether he is a man
And I a woman, or he a woman and I a man!
All I know is, there were two, Love came, and
there is one!
It was that same morning that he talked of the Babists of Persia, in their era of martyrdom - of the woman who inspired and the man who worshipped and worked. And doubtless then he expatiated on that theory of his - somewhat quaint and surprising to unaccustomed minds, not so much for the matter of the statement as for the explicitness of the expression - of the greatness and goodness of the young, who can love without seeking personal expression for their love, and their high potentiality.
Another day coming at sunrise when the snows could be seen, dawn-lighted, from the garden, it was Shiva and Umâ on whom he dwelt - and that was Shiva up there, the white snow-peaks, and the light that fell upon Him was the Mother of the World! For a thought on which at this time he was dwelling much was that God is the Universe - not within it or outside it and not the universe God or the image of God, but He it, and the All.
Sometimes all through the summer he would sit for hours telling us stories, those cradle-tales of Hinduism whose function is not at all that of our nursery fictions, but much more like the man-making myths of the old Hellenic world. Best of all these I thought was the story of Shuka, and we looked on the Shiva-mountains and the bleak scenery of Almora the evening we heard it for the first time. . . .
Shuka was indeed the Swami's saint. He was the type, to him, of that highest realization to which life and the world are merely play. Long after, we learned how Shri Ramakrishna had spoken of him in his boyhood as "my Shuka". And never can I forget the look, as of one gazing far into depths of joy, with which he once stood and quoted the words of Shiva in praise of the deep spiritual significance of the Bhagavad-Gitâ and of the greatness of Shuka: "I know the real meaning of the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita, and Shuka knows, and perhaps Vyâsa knows - a little!" Another day in Almora the Swami talked of the great humanizing lives that had arisen in Bengal, at the long inrolling wash of the first wave of modern consciousness on the ancient shores of Hindu culture. Of Ram Mohan Roy we had already heard from him at Naini Tal. And now of the Pundit Vidyâsâgar he exclaimed, "There is not a man of my age in northern India on whom his shadow has not fallen!" It was a great joy to him to remember that these men and Shri Ramakrishna had all been born within a few miles of each other.
The Swami introduced Vidyasagar to us now as "the hero of widow remarriage and of the abolition of polygamy". But his favourite story about him was of that day when he went home from the Legislative Council, pondering over the question of whether or not to adopt English dress on such occasions. Suddenly someone came up to a fat Mogul who was proceeding homewards in leisurely and pompous fashion in front of him, with the news "Sir, your house is on fire!" The Mogul went neither faster nor slower for this information, and presently the messenger contrived to express a discreet astonishment, whereupon his master turned on him angrily. "Wretch!" he said. "Am I to abandon the gait of my ancestors because a few sticks happen to be burning?" And Vidyasagar, walking behind, determined to stick to the Châdar, Dhoti and sandals, not even adopting coat and slippers.
The picture of Vidyasagar going into retreat for a month for the study of the Shâstras, when his mother had suggested to him the remarriage of child-widows, was very forcible. "He came out of his retirement of opinion that they were not against such remarriage, and he obtained the signatures of the pundits that they agreed in this opinion. Then the action of certain native princes led the pundits to abandon their own signatures so that, had the government not determined to assist the movement, it could not have been carried - and now", added the Swami, "the difficulty has an economic rather than a social basis".
We could believe that a man who was able to discredit polygamy by moral force alone, was "intensely spiritual". And it was wonderful indeed to realize the Indian indifference to a formal creed when we heard how this giant was driven by the famine of 1864 - when 140,000 people died of hunger and disease - to have nothing more to do with God and become entirely agnostic in thought.
With this man, as one of the educators of Bengal, the Swami coupled the name of David Hare, the old Scotsman and atheist to whom the clergy of Calcutta refused Christian burial. He had died of nursing an old pupil through cholera. So his own boys carried his dead body and buried it in a swamp and made the grave a place of pilgrimage. That place has now become College Square, the educational centre, and his school is now within the university. And to this day Calcutta students make pilgrimage to the tomb.
On this day we took advantage of the natural turn of the conversation to cross-question the Swami as to the possible influence that Christianity might have exerted over himself. He was much amused to hear that such a statement had been hazarded, and told us with much pride of his only contact with missionary influences, in the person of his old Scotch master, Mr. Hastie. This hot-headed old man lived on nothing and regarded his room as his boys' home as much as his own. It was he who had first sent the Swami to Shri Ramakrishna, and towards the end of his stay in India he used to say, "Yes, my boy, you were right, you were right! - It is true that all is God!" "I am proud of him!" cried the Swami. "But I don't think you could say that he had Christianized me much!" . . .
We heard charming stories too on less serious subjects. There was the lodging-house in an American city, for instance, where he had had to cook his own food, and where he would meet in the course of operations "an actress who ate roast turkey every day, and a husband and wife who lived by making ghosts". And when the Swami remonstrated with the husband and tried to persuade him to give up deceiving people, saying, "You ought not to do this!" the wife would come up behind and say eagerly, "Yes, sir! That's just what I tell him; for he makes all the ghosts, and Mrs. Williams takes all the money!"
He told us also of a young engineer, an educated man, who, at a spiritualistic gathering, "when the fat Mrs. Williams appeared from behind the screen as his thin mother, exclaimed, 'Mother dear, how you have grown in the spirit-world!' ""At this", said the Swami, "my heart broke, for I thought there could be no hope for the man". But never at a loss, he told the story of a Russian painter who was ordered to paint the picture of a peasant's dead father, the only description given being, "Man! Don't I tell you he had a wart on his nose?" When at last, therefore, the painter had made a portrait of some stray peasant and affixed a large wart to the nose, the picture was declared to be ready, and the son was told to come and see it. He stood in front of it, greatly overcome, and said, "Father! Father! How changed you are since I saw you last!" After this, the young engineer would never speak to the Swami again, which showed at least that he could see the point of a story. But at this the Hindu monk was genuinely astonished.
In spite of such general interests, however, the inner strife grew high, and the thought pressed on the mind of one of the older members of our party that the Master himself needed service and peace. Many times he spoke with wonder of the torture of life, and who can say how many signs there were of bitter need? A word or two was spoken - little, but enough - and he, after many hours, came back and told us that he longed for quiet and would go alone to the forests and find soothing.
And then, looking up, he saw the young moon shining above us, and he said, "The Mohammedans think much of the new moon. Let us also, with the new moon, begin a new life!" And he blessed his daughter with a great blessing so that she, thinking that her old relationship was broken, nor dreaming that a new and deeper life was being given to it, knew only that the hour was strange and passing sweet. . . .
He went. It was Wednesday. And on Saturday he came back. He had been in the silence of the forests ten hours each day, but on returning to his tent in the evenings he had been surrounded with so much eager attendance as to break the mood, and he had fled. Yet he was radiant. He had discovered in himself the old-time Sannyasin, able to go barefoot and endure heat, cold and scanty fare, unspoilt by the West. . . .
. . . . . .
And then, as we sat working on Friday morning the telegram came, a day late, that said: "Goodwin died last night at Ootacamund". Our poor friend had, it appeared, been one of the first victims of what was to prove an epidemic of typhoid fever. And it seemed that with his last breath he had spoken of the Swami and longed for his presence by his side.
On Sunday evening the Swami came home. Through our gate and over the terrace his way brought him, and there we sat and talked with him a moment. He did not know our news, but a great darkness hung over him already, and presently he broke the silence to remind us of that saint who had called the cobra's bite "messenger from the Beloved", one whom he had loved second only to Shri Ramakrishna himself. "I have just", he said, "received a letter that says: 'Pavhari Baba has completed all his sacrifices with the sacrifice of his own body. He has burnt himself in his sacrificial fire'". "Swami!" exclaimed someone from amongst his listeners. "Wasn't that very wrong?"
"How can I tell?" said the Swami, speaking in great agitation. "He was too great a man for me to judge. He knew himself what he was doing."
Very little was said after this, and the party of monks passed on. Not yet had the other news been broken.
Next morning he came early in a great mood. He had been up, he said afterwards, since four. And one went out to meet him and told him of Mr. Goodwin's death. The blow fell quietly. Some days later he refused to stay in the place where he had received it, and complained of the weakness that brought the image of his most faithful disciple constantly into his mind. It was no more manly, he protested, to be thus ridden by one's memory than to retain the characteristics of the fish or the dog. Man must conquer this illusion and know that the dead are here beside us and with us as much as ever. It is their absence and separation that are a myth. And then he would break out again with some bitter utterance against the folly of imagining Personal Will to guide the universe. "As if", he exclaimed, "it would not be one's right and duty to fight such a God and slay Him for killing Goodwin! And Goodwin, if he had lived, could have done so much!" And in India one was free to recognize this as the most religious, because the most unflinchingly truthful, mood of all!
And while I speak of this utterance, I may perhaps put beside it another that I heard a year later, spoken out of the same fierce wonder at the dreams with which we comfort ourselves. "Why!" he said then. "Every petty magistrate and officer is allowed his period of retirement and rest. Only God, the Eternal Magistrate, must sit judging forever and never go free!"
But in these first hours the Swami was calm about his loss, and sat down and chatted quietly with us. He was full that morning of Bhakti passing into asceticism, the divine passion that carries the soul on its high tides far out of reach of persons, yet leaves it again struggling to avoid those sweet snares of personality.
What he said that morning of renunciation proved a hard gospel to one of those who listened, and when he came again she put it to him as her conviction that to love without attachment involved no pain, and was in itself ideal.
He turned on her with a sudden solemnity. "What is this idea of Bhakti without renunciation?" he said. "It is most pernicious!" And standing there for an hour or more, he talked of the awful self-discipline that one must impose on oneself if one would indeed be unattached, of the requisite nakedness of selfish motives, and of the danger that at any moment the most flower-like soul might have its petals soiled with the grosser stains of life. He told the story of an Indian nun who was asked when a man could be certain of safety on this road, and who sent back for answer a little plate of ashes. For the fight against passion was long and fierce, and at any moment the conqueror might become the conquered. . . .
. . . Weeks afterwards in Kashmir, when he was again talking in some kindred fashion, one of us ventured to ask him if the feeling he thus roused were not that worship of pain that Europe abhors as morbid.
"Is the worship of pleasure, then, so noble?" was his immediate answer. "But indeed", he added after a pause, "we worship neither pain nor pleasure. We seek through either to come at that which transcends them both".
This Thursday morning there was a talk on Krishna. It was characteristic of the Swami's mind, and characteristic also of the Hindu culture from which he had sprung, that he could lend himself to the enjoyment and portrayal of an idea one day that the next would see submitted to a pitiless analysis and left slain upon the field. He was a sharer to the full in the belief of his people that, provided an idea was spiritually true and consistent, it mattered very little about its objective actuality. And this mode of thought had first been suggested to him in his boyhood by his own master. He had mentioned some doubt as to the authenticity of a certain religious history. "What!" said Shri Ramakrishna. "Do you not then think that those who could conceive such ideas must have been the thing itself?"
The existence of Krishna, then, like that of Christ, he often told us "in the general way" he doubted. Buddha and Mohammed alone amongst religious teachers had been fortunate enough to have "enemies as well as friends", so that their historical careers were beyond dispute. As for Krishna, he was the most shadowy of all. A poet, a cowherd, a great ruler, a warrior and a sage had all perhaps been merged in one beautiful figure holding the Gitâ in his hand.
But today Krishna was "the most perfect of the Avatâras". And a wonderful picture followed of the charioteer who reined in his horses while he surveyed the field of battle and in one brief glance noted the disposition of the forces, at the same moment that he commenced to utter to his royal pupil the deep spiritual truths of the Gita.
And indeed as we went through the country sides of northern India this summer, we had many chances of noting how deep this Krishna myth had set its mark upon the people. The songs that dancers chanted as they danced in the roadside hamlets were all of Râdhâ and Krishna. And the Swami was fond of a statement, as to which we, of course, could have no opinion, that the Krishna-worshippers of India had exhausted the possibilities of the romantic motive in lyric poetry. . . .
But throughout these days the Swami was fretting to be away and alone. The place where he had heard of Mr. Goodwin's loss was intolerable to him, and letters to be written and received constantly renewed the wound. He said one day that Shri Ramakrishna, while seeming to be all Bhakti, was really within all Jnana; but he himself, apparently all Jnana, was full of Bhakti, and that thereby he was apt to be as weak as any woman. One day he carried off a few faulty lines of someone's writing and brought back a little poem, which was sent to the widowed mother as his memorial of her son. . . . [Vide "Requiescat in Pace", Complete Works, IV]
And then, because there was nothing left of the original and he feared that she who was corrected (because her lines had been "in three metres") might be hurt, he expatiated, long and earnestly upon the theme, that it was so much greater to feel poetically than merely to string syllables together in rhyme and metre. He might be very severe on a sympathy or an opinion that seemed in his eyes sentimental or false. But an effort that failed found always in the Master its warmest advocate and tenderest defence.
And how happy was that acknowledgment of the bereaved mother to him when in the midst of her sorrow she wrote and thanked him for the character of his influence over the son who had died so far away!
It was our last afternoon at Almora that we heard the story of the fatal illness of Shri Ramakrishna. Dr. Mahendra Lal Sarkar had been called in and had pronounced the disease to be cancer of the throat, leaving the young disciples with many warnings as to its infectious nature. Half an hour later "Naren", as he then was, came in and found them huddled together discussing the dangers of the case. He listened to what they had been told and then, looking down, saw at his feet the cup of gruel that had been partly taken by Shri Ramakrishna and which must have contained in it the germs of the fatal discharges of mucus and pus, as it came out in his baffled attempts to swallow the thing on account of the stricture of the food-passage in the throat. He picked it up and drank from it before them all. Never was the infection of cancer mentioned amongst the disciples again.
ON THE WAY TO KATHGODAM
On Saturday morning we left Almora. It took us two days and a half to reach Kathgodam. . . .
Somewhere en route near a curious old water-mill and deserted forge, the Swami told Dhira Mata of a legend that spoke of this hill-side as haunted by a race of centaur-like phantoms, and of an experience known to him by which one had first seen forms there and only afterwards heard the folk tale.
The roses were gone by this time, but a flower was in bloom that crumbled at a touch, and he pointed this out because of its wealth of associations in Indian poetry.
On Sunday afternoon we rested near the plains in what we took to be an out-of-the-way hotel above a lake and fall, and there he translated for us the Rudra prayer:
From the unreal lead us to the Real.
From darkness lead us unto light.
From death lead us to immortality.
Reach us through and through our self.
And evermore protect us - O Thou Terrible! -
From ignorance, by Thy sweet, compassionate face. He hesitated a long time over the fourth line, thinking of rendering it, "Embrace us in the heart of our heart". But at last he put his perplexity to us, saying shyly, "The real meaning is, Reach us through and through our self". He had evidently feared that this sentence, with its extraordinary intensity, might not make good sense in English. . . . I have understood that a more literal rendering would be, "O Thou who art manifest only unto Thyself, manifest Thyself also unto us!" I now regard his translation as a rapid and direct transcript of the experience of Samâdhi itself. It tears the living heart out of the Sanskrit, as it were, and renders it again in an English form.
It was indeed an afternoon of translations, and he gave us fragments of the great benediction after mourning, which is one of the most beautiful of the Hindu sacraments:
The blissful winds are sweet to us.
The seas are showering bliss on us.
May the corn in our fields bring bliss to us.
May the plants and herbs bring bliss to us.
May the cattle give us bliss.
O Father in Heaven, be Thou blissful unto us!
Thy very dust of the earth is full of bliss.
And then, the voice dying down into meditation:
It is all bliss - all bliss - all bliss.
And again we had Suradâsa's song, which the Swami heard from the nautch-girl at Khetri:
O Lord, look not upon my evil qualities!
Thy name, O Lord, is Same-Sightedness.
Make of us both the same Brahman! . . .
Was it that same day or some other that he told us of the old Sannyâsin in Benares who saw him annoyed by troops of monkeys and, afraid that he might turn and run, shouted, "Always face the brute!"?
Those journeys were delightful. We were always sorry to reach a destination. At this time it took us a whole afternoon to cross the Terai by rail - that strip of malarial country on which, as he reminded us, Buddha had been born. As we had come down the mountain roads, we had met parties of country-folk fleeing to the upper hills with their families and all their goods, to escape the fever which would be upon them with the rains. And now in the train there was the gradual change of vegetation to watch and the Master's pleasure, greater than that of any proprietor, in showing us the wild peacocks, or here and there an elephant or a train of camels. . . .
ON THE WAY TO BARAMULLA
PERSONS: The Swami Vivekananda, Gurubhais, and a party of Europeans and disciples, amongst whom were Dhira Mata, the "Steady Mother"; one whose name was Jaya; and Nivedita.
PLACE: From Bareilly to Baramulla, Kashmir.
TIME: June 14 to 20, 1898.
We entered the Punjab next day, and great was the Swami's excitement at the fact. It almost seemed as if he had been born there, so close and special was his love for this province. He talked of the girls at their spinning wheels listening to the "So'ham! So'ham!" - I am He! I am He! Then, by a swift transition he turned to the far past and unrolled for us the great historic panorama of the advance of the Greeks on the Indus, the rise of Chandragupta and the development of the Buddhistic empire. He was determined this summer to find his way to Attock and see with his own eyes the spot at which Alexander was turned back. He described to us the Gandhara sculptures, which he must have seen in the Lahore Museum the year before, and lost himself in indignant repudiation of the absurd European claim that India had ever sat at the feet of Greece in things artistic.
Then there were flying glimpses of long-expected cities - Ludhiana, where certain trusty English disciples had lived as children; Lahore, where his Indian lectures had ended; and so on. We came too upon the dry gravel beds of many rivers and learnt that the space between one pair was called the Doab and the area containing them all, the Punjab. It was at twilight, crossing one of these stony tracts, that he told us of that great vision which came to him years ago, while he was still new to the ways of the life of a monk, giving back to him, as he always afterwards believed, the ancient mode of Sanskrit chanting.
"It was evening", he said, "in that age when the Aryans had only reached the Indus. I saw an old man seated on the bank of the great river. Wave upon wave of darkness was rolling in upon him, and he was chanting from the Rig-Veda. Then I awoke and went on chanting. They were the tones that we used long ago".
. . . Those who were constantly preoccupied with imagination regarding their own past always aroused his contempt. But on this occasion of telling the story, he gave a glimpse of it from a very different point of view.
"Shankarâchârya", he was saying, "had caught the rhythm of the Vedas, the national cadence. Indeed I always imagine", he went on suddenly with dreamy voice and far-away look, "I always imagine that he had some vision such as mine when he was young, and recovered the ancient music that way. Anyway, his whole life's work is nothing but that, the throbbing of the beauty of the Vedas and Upanishads". . . .
From Rawalpindi to Murree we went by tonga, and there we spent some days before setting out for Kashmir. Here the Swami came to the conclusion that any effort which he might make to induce the orthodox to accept a European as a fellow-disciple, or in the direction of woman's education, had better be made in Bengal. The distrust of the foreigner was too strong in Punjab to admit of work succeeding there. He was much occupied by this question from time to time, and would sometimes remark on the paradox presented by the Bengali combination of political antagonism to the English, and readiness to love and trust. . . .
. . . . . .
Most of the afternoon we were compelled by a storm to spend indoors;, and a new chapter was opened at Dulai in our knowledge of Hinduism, for the Swami told us gravely and frankly of its modern abuses and spoke of his own uncompromising hostility to those evil practices which pass under the name of Vâmâchâra.
When we asked how Shri Ramakrishna - who never could bear to condemn the hope of any man - had looked at these things, he told us that "the old man" had said, "Well, well! But every house may have a scavengers' entrance!" And he pointed out that all sects of diabolism in any country belonged to this class. . . .
We took it in turns to drive with the Swami in his tonga, and this next day seemed full of reminiscence.
He talked of Brahmavidyâ, the vision of the One, the Alone - Real, and told how love was the only cure for evil. He had had a schoolfellow who grew up and became rich, but lost his health. It was an obscure disease, sapping his energy and vitality daily, yet altogether baffling the skill of the doctors. At last, because he knew that the Swami had always been religious, and men turn to religion when all else fails, he sent to beg him to come to him. When the Master reached him a curious thing happened. There came to his mind a text: "Him the Brahmin conquers who thinks that he is separate from the Brahmin. Him the Kshatriya conquers who thinks that he is separate from the Kshatriya. And him the universe conquers who thinks that he is separate from the universe". And the sick man grasped this and recovered. "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". Was it then, or the day before, that talking of the great God, he told us how when he was a child his mother would sigh over his naughtiness and say, "So many prayers and austerities, and instead of a good soul, Shiva has sent me you!" till he was hypnotized into a belief that he was really one of Shiva's demons. He thought that for a punishment he had been banished for a while from Shiva's heaven, and that his one effort in life must be to go back there.
His first act of sacrilege, he told us once, had been committed at the age of five when he embarked on a stormy argument with his mother, to the effect that when his right hand was soiled with eating, it would be cleaner to lift his tumbler of water with the left. For this or similar perversities her most drastic remedy was to put him under the water tap and, while cold water was pouring over his head, to say "Shiva! Shiva!" This, he said, never failed of its effect. The prayer would remind him of his exile, and he would say to himself, "No, no, not this time again!" and so return to quiet and obedience.
He had a surpassing love for Mahâdeva, and once he said of the Indian women of the future that if, amidst their new tasks, they would only remember now and then to say "Shiva! Shiva!" it would be worship enough. The very air of the Himalayas was charged for him with the image of that "eternal meditation" that no thought of pleasure could break. And he understood, he said, for the first time this summer, the meaning of the nature-story that made the Ganges fall on the head of the great God, and wander in and out amongst His matted locks before She found an outlet on the plains below. He had searched long, he said, for the words that the rivers and waterfalls uttered, amongst the mountains, before he had realized that it was the eternal cry "Bom! Bom! Hara! Hara!"
"Yes!" he said of Shiva one day, "He is the great God - calm, beautiful, and silent! And I am His great worshipper".
Again his subject was marriage, as the type of the soul's relation to God. "This is why", he exclaimed, "though the love of a mother is in some ways greater, yet the whole world takes the love of man and woman as the type. No other has such tremendous idealizing power. The beloved actually becomes what he is imagined to be. This love transforms its object".
Then the talk strayed to national types, and he spoke of the joy with which the returning traveller greets once more the sight of the men and women of his own country. The whole of life has been a subconscious education to enable one to understand in these every faintest ripple of expression in face and form.
And again we passed a group of Sannyâsins going on foot, and he broke out into fierce invective against asceticism as "savagery" . . . . But the sight of wayfarers doing slow miles on foot in the name of their ideals seemed to rouse in his mind a train of painful associations, and he grew impatient on behalf of humanity at "the torture of religion". Then again the mood passed as suddenly as it had arisen and gave place to the equally strong statement of the conviction that were it not for this "savagery", luxury would have robbed man of all his manliness.
We stopped that evening at Uri Dak bungalow, and in the twilight we all walked in the meadows and the bazaar. How beautiful the place was! A little mud fortress - exactly of the European feudal pattern - overhung the footway as it swept into a great open theatre of field and hill. Along the road above the river lay the bazaar, and we returned to the bungalow by a path across the fields, past cottages in whose gardens the roses were in bloom. As we came, too, it would happen that here and there some child more venturesome than others would play with us.
The next day, driving through the most beautiful part of the pass and seeing cathedral rocks and an old ruined temple of the sun, we reached Baramulla. The legend is that the Vale of Kashmir was once a lake and that at this point the Divine Boar pierced the mountains with his tusks and let the Jhelum go free. Another piece of geography in the form of myth. Or is it also prehistoric history?