Saturday, 27 April 2013

Swami Vivekananda in the memory of Josephine MacLeod

वीरेश्वराय विद्महे विवेकानन्दाय धीमहि । तन्नो वीर: प्रचोदयात् ।
Recalling the Swami’s lecture on the Bhagavadgita sometime in 1895, she was quoted as saying, later: "I saw with these very eyes (she pointed to her own eyes) Krishna himself standing there and preaching the Gita. That was my first wonderful vision. I stared and stared. . . .I saw only the figure and all else vanished."
(Pravrajika Prabuddhaprana, The Life of Josephine MacLeod: Friend of Swami Vivekananda (Dakshineshwar: Sri Sarada Math, 1990), p. 12)
     
ON the twenty-ninth of January 1895, I went with my sister in 54 West 33rd Street, New York, and heard the Swami Vivekananda in his sitting room where were assembled fifteen or twenty ladies and two or three gentlemen. The room was crowded. All the arm-chairs were taken; so I sat on the floor in the front row. Swami stood in the corner. He said something, the particular words of which I do not remember, but instantly to me that was truth, and the second sentence he spoke was truth, and the third sentence was truth. And I listened to him for seven years and whatever he uttered was to me truth. From that moment life had a different import. It was as if he made yon realm; that you were in eternity. It never altered. It never grew. It was like the sun that you will never forget once you have seen.

I heard him all that winter, three days a week, mornings at eleven o'clock. I never spoke to him, but as we were so regular in coming, two front seats were always kept for us in this sitting room of the Swamiji. One day he turned and said. "Are you sisters?" "Yes", we answered. Then he said, "Do you come very far?" We said, "No. not very far — about thirty miles up the Hudson." "So far? That is wonderful." Those were the first words I ever spoke to him.

I always felt that after Vivekananda, Mrs. Roethlisberger was the most spiritual person I ever met. It was she who took us to him. Swamiji had a great place for her also. One day she and I went to the Swami and said. "Swami, will you tell us how to meditate?" He said.
"Meditate on the word 'OM' for a week and come again and tell me." So after a week we went back and Mrs. Roethlisberger said,"I see a light." He said, "Good, keep on," "O no, it is more like a glow at the heart." And he said to me, "Good, keep on." That is all he ever taught me. But we had been meditating before we ever met him, and we knew the Gita by heart, I think that prepared us for recognition of this tremendous life force which he was. His power lay, perhaps, in the courage he gave others. He did not ever seem to be conscious of himself at all. It was the other man who interested him. "When the book of life begins to open, then the fun begins," he would say. He used to make us realize there was nothing secular in life; it was all holy. "Always remember, you are incidentally an American, and a woman, but always a child of God. Tell yourself day and night who you are. Never forget it." That is what he used to tell us. His presence, you see, was dynamic. You cannot pass that power on unless you have it, just as you cannot give money away unless you have it. You may imagine it, but you cannot do it.

We never spoke to him, had nothing much to do with him; but during that spring we were dining one night with Mr. Francis. H. Leggett, who later became my brother-in-law. "Yes, we can dine with you but we cannot spend the evening with you," we had told him. "Very well," he answered, "just dine with me." When dinner was over, he said, "Where are you going this evening?" We told him we were going to a lecture; and he asked. "Mayn't I come?" We said. "Yes." He came, he listened; and when it was over, he went up to Swamiji, shook hands with him and said. "Swami, when will you dine with me?" And it was he who introduced us to Swami socially.