Sunday, 23 April 2017

Swami Vivekananda in the memory of Ida Ansell - 4

Congregational singing in the Christian churches he referred to as "bottle-breaking business". He made all sorts of fun of"Beulah Land":

I've reached the land of corn and wine And all its riches freely mine.

Another hymn that amused him was the "Missionary Hymn":

From Greenland's icy mountains
To India's coral strand....

He would sing it all through to the end, in his rich voice, and then pause, point dramatically at himself, and say, smilingly: "I am the heathen they came to save"

On March 30 Swamiji wrote to Swami Turiyananda, who was then in New York helping Swami Abhedananda. "I am leaving for Chicago next week." But more lectures followed and on April 23 he wrote to Mary Hale, "I ought to have started today, but cannot forego the temptation to be in a camp under the high redwood trees of California before I leave. Therefore I postpone it for three or four days." As it turned out he should have said "three or four weeks", for he did not leave the Bay district until May 26.

The invitation to be in such a camp had come to him from Miss Bell, to whom Mr. Juhl, the owner, offered it for a summer vacation. Miss Bell invited Mrs. Eloise Roorbach and me to accompany her. Various letters indicate that Swamiji remained in the Turk Street apartment until April 19, then worked and lived at Alameda on the other side of the Bay for some days, not actually reaching the redwood camp until May 2.

On April 22, Miss Bell, Mrs. Roorbach, and I were established at Camp Irving (the name of Mr. Juhl's camp at the outskirts of Camp Taylor, a rustic summer retreat in Marin County) a few miles north of San Francisco. The camp ground was a narrow strip of land between a railroad track and a creek. There was a circular clump of trees at one end which we used as a sort of chapel for classes and meditation. The kitchen was at the other end and its equipment consisted of a stove under a tree, a trunk for supplies, a rough board table with benches on either side, and some shelves built into the tree for dishes, the pots and pans being hung on nails driven into the tree. Between these two provisions for spiritual and material food there was room for four tents and an open space for a camp-fire.

When Swamiji did reach the camp, he arrived with Shanti after a series of efforts to get there which she related to me when I was in San Francisco a few years ago. She told me of her mental conflict in regard to going to the camp. She was torn between the desire to accompany Swamiji and the wish, after three months' absence, to get back to her daughter in Los Angeles. Swami said to her, "Don't go to Los Angeles. Come with me to the camp and will teach you to meditate." In order to go from Alameda to Camp Irving it was necessary to take two ferry boats, one across the Bay to San Francisco and one north from there to Marin County. In Alameda there were two rail-road lines which carried passengers to the docks, one broad gauge and one narrow gauge, just a few blocks apart. Swamiji and Shanti missed the train at one of them and went to the other. Seated in the car, they discussed the matter of whether to have breakfast on the boat from Alameda to San Francisco or on the boat from San Francisco to Marin County. and then discovered that there was no engine attached to the car in which they were sitting. They returned to the Home and had breakfast there, and Swamiji said, "We missed the train because your heart was in Los Angeles and there is no force or power in the universe that can pull against the human heart."

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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