Thursday, 19 April 2018

From the letters of Sister Nivedita

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

To Miss J. Macleod

21A High Street, Wimbledon
January 11th, 1901

Tomorrow will be a month since the day of the operation-when Dr. Bose lay down on the talbe and said "Now Gentle man you may cut away!" And he has done 3 days' laboratory work this week, doing an enormous amount in the time! Isn't it splendid? The Indian blood has vindicated itself this time and everyone says that only his abstemious habits could possible account for so quick a recovery. The risks he ran seem also to have been greater than we knew at the time. So thank heaven - and still more S.R.K. and the King, as my private superstition declares - for the fact that we are well through.

Last Sunday I lectured twice at Tunbridge Wells, and met Sarah Grand there. It was an extraordinary thing that came to me there. I told you that I was trying to lay hold of Brahmoism. Well, S. Sara says I am not doing that at all, but at any rate, on Sunday night it was a religious service at which I had to speak, and I found myself taking the highest part of everything Swami had ever given us. Then I understood in a flash that my notion about Brahmoism had been a kind of call to me to do this, which I should never have done, perhaps, without that invitation from another's need. So I am able to realise that I really any may have been using images to thwart and blind my vision of the One. And that until I have achieved that vision, I may not go back to the Image. I cannot tell you the peace of this discovery. And is it not a wonderful proof of the truth of Advaita that Swami is so tremendous that every path means faithfulness to him?

How I have realised that, in talking to Dr. Bose sometimes! He would not discuss with me the points on which Swami and he differed because it would be dishonourable. And I have always had to urge:"Don't you see this man is so large that as long as you are faithful to Truth and to yourself, you CANNOT be in antagonism to him?"

In the same, way it is extraordinary to see in Dr. Bose how that old idea of Advaita behind him saves him from errors that other men of science walk into blindfold. These are the proofs that I love - not words and logic - and juggling of that kind, which is comparatively easy, but experience of one grade or another, even where it is not the highest - "Make us both the same brahman!"

It is nice to hear that my country people have their social virtues. I think if one is within the ring, there is no one like them in the world. But I pray never to forget for one moment what it is to be outside that ring! To know that all our talk of Freedom - Freedom for all the peoples of the Earth - Freedom for every man of every people of the Earth - for this was how I saw the national ideal - to know that all this meant only British comfort, success and gold, has been such a feast of ashes to me as leaves me with no power of rebound at all. I am permanently embittered and disillusioned, I much fear. Yet there are a few honest men here all the same. But has any Ninkiveh ever been entirely without its Jonahs? I don't think the honesty of a few can be counted specially to England's credit, since it belongs surely to all Hunamity.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

From the letters of Sister Nivedita

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

To Miss J. MacLeod

21A High Sr. Wimbledon
Jan 4, 1901

I wish I could come to you Dear, and tell you everything and ask you what I ought and ought not to do.

And yet the very thought of such a thing seems like selfishness. But it is so difficult to know the Right - so difficult Yum Yum. And so easy to go through life simply fighting and opposing. Have I any business to go on in England? Is it a real call to stay here? - or only a fancied call? As far as wishes go - my whole soul is in India. I am more and more convinced that there is nothing to be done outside. And what I am doing here seems the merest fancy-work.

Your words - "In whom I have all faith" - hit me hard. Do I deserve you faith? How long shall I deserve it? I donot know. I can not tell. Only I am trying to do right, with all my heart. If you feel prompted to wire "start at once for India," you may be sure that I shall do it without fail.

I am trying to get the whole of the Brahmo feeling and tradition honestly. And it seems a right and necessary side to get. There has been a tremendous resolution on his side to overcome - for he felt that honour could never permit my hearing his views from him. But at last I think I am getting it all. And I am throwing myself into it completely, as I think S.R.K. would wish me to do, and trying, if that might be, to reach GOD that way. You will remember that we (or at least I) did not love even Shiva and Kali at first. Even S.R.K. can not have loved all religions equally. So I may say without any disloyalty to the effort I am making that at present it is dreadfully like the Puritanism of my childhood. But I feel strongly that the more this is the fact, the more must I try to do it. And sometimes I am quite clear and sure that the call and the effort come straight from S.R.K. Himself. And at other times I think of Swami and shudder - for I do not think he could understand or approve - and to be disapproved of by him is still the uttermost death to me. Moreover, I seem to be casting away all that I have lived for - all that it has been Freedom to possess - so far. But how mean even to think in such a way! As if it were so dreadful to see one's own miserable little self in the wrong! No wonder one is so shy of seeing it hungry or cold or ridiculed!

The Brahmavadin review of Kali is too awful. It explains frankly to an inquisitive world hat Vireshwar was Swami's family name - etc - !

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Sister Nivedita: The Dedicated - Who gave her all to India – 46

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

Nivedita as a writer - 4

Writings of Nivedita were a symphony of her insight in Indian wisdom and tradition, her intense love for India, her sharp intellect and her mastery over language. So beautiful, deep and moving were her writings that it is really difficult to translate those in other languages. May be that is the reason that most of her literature even today remains un-translated. Her literature has not only historical and literary value but are good guide in the task of nation-building too.

For example: while comparing with other nations she sums up in few words the journey and contribution of Hindu Nation from antiquity to till now. She writes, "Let it be said that to every people who possess the elements of truly national existence, with the responsibility of facing the problems of a nation, this question sooner or later comes to be faced. Have we in the past dreamt dreams great enough, thought thoughts noble enough, willed with a will clear enough, to enable us to strike out new paths into the untried, without error and without defeat? And perhaps of all the peoples of the world only the Hindu people, to this searching enquiry can answer yes".

Therefore, not just because Sister Nivedita was a great example of transformation but we have to study her life and works also because, even today she can give insight to us - the English educated -about our own nation and its significance.

Nivedita had the habit of taking down the notes of whatever Swami Vivekananda used to say during her training period. Then she would think over it. It helped her then to understand what Swamiji was trying to say. But once the soul of India was revealed to her, later with her powerful pen she interpreted it to the world. The best of Nivedita's books on Indian national life, a masterpiece, is 'The Web of Indian Life' and 'The Cradle tales of Hinduism'. As soon as the book 'The Web of Indian Life' was published it created quite a stir in India and abroad. The book is a respectful commentary on Indian culture. Through this book, Nivedita tried to give a fitting reply to all the slander and vile representations so far made by the Western scholars of Indian culture and civilization.

But Nivedita did not think that she had authored the book. She thought it was Swamiji's book. She only recorded the image of India that Swamiji had laid open before her. Dedicating the book, she inscribed the following words, which were favourites of Swamiji-Wahe Guru ki Fateh! Rabindranath Tagore wrote the introduction to its 1918 edition. Immediately after its publication, Nivedita wrote to Miss Josephine MacLeod, her intimate friend and the great admirer and friend of Vivekananda. 'You know that my book is out. I trust you really feel that it was written by Swami, I suppose it is.' In another letter to Miss Macleod she wrote: 'Suppose he had not come to London that time. Life would have been like a headless torso-for I always knew, I always said that a call would come. And it did…. Now I look at the book, and say: "If he had not come!" – for always I had that burning voice within, but nothing to utter. How often and often I have sat down, pen in hand, to speak, and there was no speech. And now, there is no end to it! As surely as I am fitted for my world, so surely is my world in need of me, waiting…'
Nivedita's book on Swami Vivekananda 'The Master as I saw Him' is the masterpiece. Nivedita's whole being has been expressed in it as a poetry in prose form. It is so beautiful and ethereal that even today its accurate, candid and moving translation is not done. Whatever was the best of her soul and her pen, is reflected in that book. 

To be continued...