Shanti told me of how, after reading Swamiji's books for two years, she had first heard him lecture in Los Angeles the winter of 1899-1900. At once she had been eager to help in his work. A society was organized of which Shanti was the First Secretary. Lectures were given at Blanchard Hall, the Los Angeles Home of Truth, the Shakespeare Club of Pasadena, and other places. Swami had been staying at the home of Mrs. S.K. Biodgett. He was also the guest of the Mead sisters in South Pasadena, of whom Shanti was one. The other two were Mrs. Carrie Mead Wyckoff, who in later years gave her Hollywood home as the headquarters of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, and Helen Mead, who took some of Swamiji's Los Angeles lectures in shorthand. When Swamiji left for Oakland, he said. "You three sisters have become a part of my mind for ever."
Shanti told me: "Swamiji had such simplicity about him, he put one right on a level with himself. He said to me, 'You have no reverence.' When I told this to Swami Turiyananda, he remarked. "Yes, he said that, but he was pleased that you did not have reverence. Where there is equality there is exchange of perfect love. Where there is no superior and inferior you have that perfect union.'"
When Swamiji received the invitation to lecture in the Unitarian Church in Oakland, he asked Shanti if she would like to accompany him north. He said, "If you want to go with me, don't let anybody keep you from coming." So Shanti went to San Francisco and at last to Camp Irving. There she was very active in caring for Swami's needs and comfort. One morning he found her in the kitchen preparing food when it was time for his morning class. "Aren't you coming in to meditate?" he asked. "Yes." she replied, "but I have to get this broth simmering first. Then I shall come in."
Then Swamiji said, "Well, never mind; our Master said you could leave meditation for service."
Two never-to-be-forgotten nights stand out in my long life. To think of either of them is a cure for any ill. One is the first night at Shanti Ashrama with Swami Turiyananda, about whom I have already written. The other is Swamiji's first night at Camp Taylor, May 2. 1900. I close my eyes and see him standing there in the soft blackness with sparks from the blazing log fire flying through it and a day-old moon above. He was weary after a long lecture season, but relaxed and happy to be there. "We end life in the forest," he said, "as we begin it, but with a world of experience between the two states." Later after a short talk, when we were about to have the usual meditation, he said. "You may meditate on whatever you like, but I shall meditate on the heart of a lion. That gives strength." The bliss and power and peace of the meditation that followed could never be described.
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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