Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Swami Vivekananda - S.E. Waldo : 3

Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda by S.E. Waldo

...From New England, Swami Vivekananda returned to New York in the autumn, and at a lecture he gave in the parlour of a friend he met Dr. Janes, who at once recognized the unusual character and attainments of the Swami and invited him to lecture before the Association in Brooklyn. The two men became warmly attached to each other and formed a friendship that lasted as long as they lived.

Swami Vivekananda lectured in Brooklyn for the first time on 30th December, 1894 and his success was immediate. A large and enthusiastic audience greeted his appearance at the Pouch Mansion, and a course of lectures there and at other places in Brooklyn soon followed. From this time his public work in America really began. He established himself in quarters of his own, where he held several classes a week and came into more intimate relations with his students. Earnest people flocked to hear him and to learn the ancient teachings of India on the all-embracing character of her philosophy that every soul must be saved, that all religions were true, being steps in the progress of man toward a higher and ever higher spiritual realization — and above all to hear the constant lessons of the Swami on a world-wide, universal religious toleration.

At this time the Swami was living very simply in New York; and his earliest classes were held in the small room he occupied, and in the beginning were attended by only three or four persons. They grew with astonishing rapidity, and, as the little room filled to overflowing, became very picturesque. The Swami himself always sat on the floor, and most of his audience likewise. The marble-topped dresser, the arms of the sofa, and even the corner washstand helped to furnish seats for the constantly increasing numbers. The door was left open, and the overflow filled the hall and sat on the stairs. And those first classes! How intensely interesting they were! Who that was privileged to attend them can ever forget them? The Swami so dignified yet so simple, so gravely earnest, so eloquent, and the close ranks of students, forgetting all inconveniences, hanging breathless on his every word!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Swami Vivekananda - S.E. Waldo : 2

Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda by S.E. Waldo

...After the close of the Parliament of Religions. Swami Vivekananda received many flattering offers to lecture in various parts of the United States. He was so desirous to send help to his fellow Sannyasins in India that he accepted an engagement with a Lecture Bureau and delivered many lectures in the Western States. He soon found, however, that he was utterly unsuited for such a career. Naturally, he could not speak to promiscuous audiences on the topics nearest to his heart, and the life of ceaseless change was too strenuous for a contemplative nature like his own. He was at this time a far different being from what he afterward developed into. He was dreamy and meditative, often so wrapped in his own thoughts as to be hardly conscious of his surroundings. The constant friction of alien thoughts, the endless questioning, the frequent sharp conflict of wits in this Western world awoke a different spirit, and he became as alert and wide awake as the world in which he found himself.

At great pecuniary sacrifice, the Swami severed his connection with the Lecture Bureau; but once more his own master. he turned his steps towards New York. A Chicago friend was instrumental in bringing him to this metropolis of the U.S., and he reached New York in the early part of 1894. His Western experiences had convinced him that there were many in America who would gladly learn of the ancient philosophy of India, and he hoped that in this city he would be able to come in contact with such inquiring minds.

He gave a few public lectures, but was not yet in a position to begin regular work, as he was a guest in the homes of his friends. In the summer of that year he went to New England, still as a visitor, and spent a week or two at Greenacre where Miss Farmer was inaugurating the "Greenacre Conferences", which in later years became so widely known through the school of Comparative Religions conducted there by the late Dr. Lewis G. Janes, who was long the gifted and liberal-minded President of the Brooklyn Ethical Association.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Swami Vivekananda - S.E. Waldo : 1

Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda by S.E. Waldo

WHEN Swami Vivekananda's Madras disciples decided to raise a sum of money sufficient to send him to represent Hinduism at the World's Fair at Chicago in 1893, they were in ignorance of the exact date of the opening of the Parliament of Religions. Consequently the Swami reached Chicago in the spring, several months before the time set for the delegates to meet. At first, he was much disturbed when he learnt how long he would have to wait, because his funds, none too extensive to start with, were running low. They had been greatly depleted by the bad management of his travelling companions to whom he had entrusted them. It became a problem to him how to maintain himself in a strange land until the time should come for him to fulfil his mission in America. He found his way to Boston and nearly resolved to return at once to India; but his charming personality soon won him friends, and his confidence returned.

He was most hospitably entertained in the family of a Professor of Harvard College, who persuaded him to adhere to his original plan to speak at the approaching Religious Congress.* By the advice of this kind friend Swami Vivekananda returned to Chicago, and his brilliant success at the Parliament of Religions is still fresh in the minds of all who heard him there. His very first words in his melodious voice aroused a perfect storm of applause. It is doubtful if any one of the thousands who listened to those first eloquent utterances had the least idea that never before in his life had he stood before an audience. So ready was his speech, so excellent his mastery of English, so finished his language, so flashing his wit and repartee that every one supposed he was an experienced public speaker. Surely the spirit and power of his Master spoke through him that day!