Sunday, 5 May 2013

Memoirs of Manmatha Nath Ganguli

वीरेश्वराय विद्महे विवेकानन्दाय धीमहि । तन्नो वीर: प्रचोदयात् ।

It was in the year 1898 when I heard that Swamiji (that is, Swami Vivekananda) had arrived at Calcutta. I went to see him in Baghbazar where he was staying with Shri Balaram Bose. On the first floor, facing the street, there was a hall where a few persons waited to have a darshana of the great Swami, who was in an adjacent room. I took my seat in a corner of the floor which was carpeted, and in a short while there came Miss Noble (Sister Nivedita) through one of the doors inside the hall. She wore an overall robe of pale saffron which came almost to her ankles and there was a necklace of holy rudraksha beads on her neck. As she entered the room barefooted she looked as pure as a goddess.

She went with slow strides straight to the door adjoining the room in which Swamiji was resting; but then she knelt down beside the door-frame and folded her hands; her finger and palms joined to offer her obeisance to the Lord. She bowed down in this posture and then remained quietly sitting on her ankles with joined palms as we do while praying. But she did not enter the room in which Swamiji was sitting on a cot. Swamiji talked, with her for a while, and she also answered in a soft voice reverentially as if she was in a church. Then she again bowed down to the Swami and went away as silently as she had come.

I had heard a lot about Sister Nivedita but this was the first time that I saw her in person. Her face had a serenity and fullness that one sees in the face of Madonna that indicates the direct vision of God in person....

After a while Shri Vijayakrishna Goswami entered the hall with a few of his followers who had an earthen mridanga (long (drum) and cymbals with them. The party were seated at one corner of the hall, a little apart from the rest of the people who by this time had assembled there. As soon as Swamiji saw Shri Vijayakrishna, he left his room and came inside the hall and stood in the middle. Seeing the Swami, Shri Vijayakrishna and his party stood up as a mark of respect. Then Shri Vijayakrishna Goswami advanced a step or two and tried to take the dust from the feet of Swamiji. But Swamiji was too alert for it, and he himself bent down to take the dust from the feet of Shri Goswami. Simultaneously both of them avoided to be touched by the other, and again both of them tried to outdo the other in this form of homage. At last Swamiji took hold of Shri Goswami's hand and made him sit beside himself on the carpet in the middle of the floor.

Shri Vijayakrishna was then in a great ecstatic mood and he looked like a man intoxicated with the love of God. A few minutes after, when he seemed normal, the Swami entreated him to speak a few words about Shri Ramakrishna. At this Shri Vijayakrishna was again choked with emotion and he slowly repealed the words several times with great effort: "Thakur (Shri Ramakrishna) has kindly blessed me." But he could speak no further due to his immense surge of devotion. We could see divine grace in his flushed face and ecstatic mood. He sat quiet and motionless and tears flowed from his eyes continuously for some time wetting his cheeks. At this the men who had come with him stood up and began sankirtana keeping him and the Swami in their centre. After some time Shri Goswami was able to stand up and though he seemed to be in a condition of half-awakened consciousness, his followers took him in their middle and moved slowly out of the hall.

It was then that I bowed to the Swami from a distance. There was none to introduce me to him, but I felt very happy to be able to see him face to face. I thought that I was fortunate enough to see the great Swami, lionized in America for his great learning and oratory. I was a petty clerk in government service at Allahabad, but hearing about the Swami's return to India, I took leave from my office and went forth for his darshana. Thus I came to Calcutta where my elder brother lived and practised as a lawyer. Twice or thrice in the year I used to come to Calcutta, and I never lost the opportunity to know at a closer quarter the sannyasins of the Math, and the disciples of Shri Ramakrishna, for my own spiritual benefit.