Saturday, 22 April 2017

Swami Vivekananda in the memory of Ida Ansell - 3

One Sunday evening Swamiji was scheduled to give a lecture at the Home of Truth. "Come to my lecture tonight," he said to some friends. "I am going to throw some bombs. It will be interesting and it will do you good!" It was interesting and terribly convincing. He told us in plain and forceful language just what he thought of us and it was not flattering, but very wholesome if we could take it, and I think we could. I don't remember that any one left. He stressed the idea of chastity as a means of strengthening the mind, and purity for the house-holder as well as for the monk. He told of a Hindu boy who had been in America for some time and was suffering from ill health. The boy told Swamiji that the Indian theory of chastity must be wrong because the doctors here had advised him against it. Swamiji said, "I told him to go back to India and listen to the teachings of his ancestors who had practised chastity for thousands of years." And then he severely rebuked the American doctors for giving such advice.

Mrs. Steele had prepared an excellent dinner which was served before the lecture, at which Swamiji was delightfully informal and jolly. We waited expectantly for him to say the usual grace, but to our surprise he immediately commenced to eat. He made some remark about saying grace after dinner rather than before, and he also said, addressing Mrs. Steele, "I will say grace to you, Madame; you have done all the work." She had some very fine dates for desert, which Swami evidently enjoyed, and when, after the lecture she expressed her appreciation of it, he replied, "It was your dates Madame"

One evening Swamiji was talking of the different interpretations of heaven and hell presented in the Indian scriptures. He described several varieties of hell. Usually after a lecture some of the devotees would take him either to Mr. Louis Juhl's restaurant in the section of San Francisco known as Little Italy or to some uptown cafe, depending on whether his mood and the weather called for hot food or ice-cream. On this particular occasion it was a very cold night and Swamiji shivered in his overcoat, remarking. "If this isn't hell, I don't know what is." But, in spite of the hellishly cold weather, he chose ice-cream, which he liked very much. Just as it was time to leave the cafe the hostess had to go to the telephone and asked us to wait. As she left for that purpose, Swamiji called after her, "Well don't be long or when you come back you will find only a lump of chocolate ice-cream."

On another occasion a waitress made a mistake in the order and brought Swamiji an ice-cream soda, which he did not like. He asked her if she would change it. As she was on her way to do so Swamiji happened to see the annoyed manager, and called out loudly, not caring who heard him, "If you scold that girl I'll eat all the ice-cream sodas in the place."

To be continue... ( Vedanta and the West, May-June 1954 Courtesy: Partha Sinha )

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The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

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