Sunday, 30 April 2017

Swami Vivekananda in the memory of Ida Ansell - 11

Tom and Edith had an apartment in San Francisco which was permeated with the atmosphere of Swamiji. All the Swamis of the Ramakrishna Order in this country loved to visit them when they went to San Francisco, and some of them said or wrote. "You, more than anybody else in the West, are able to make Swamiji real to us." One of my friends said of them when she and her son visited the Allans a few years ago that their account of Swami Vivekananda was so full of joy and so vivid, it seemed as though he himself could walk into the room. There was a beautiful picture of him in the dining room, and the guests were always seated facing it. Chanting always preceded the meal, and there was little talk of anything during it other than of Swamiji, his Master, and his work. All his books were there, and the Allans had an enormous collection of pictures which they enjoyed showing to their guests. One particular favourite was taken in a garden. Swamiji was lying on the grass, enjoying a conversation with some friends, when someone came and wanted to take his picture. He did not want to get up but, urged by all to do so, he stood up, just as he was, without turban or robe, against a background of flowering vines, looking as if about to speak, and the result is one of his best portraits.

Edith had a nice contralto voice, and sometimes she would sing, with deep feeling, some of the songs associated with Swamiji. A favourite was the song of the nautch-girl, which she adapted from Swamiji's translation of a song sung by a courtesan in the palace of a Raja where he was staying just before leaving for America the first time. Although he left the room when he learnt that this girl was about to sing, he heard the song from outside and was so moved by the words and her manner of singing that he returned and spoke most beautifully to her, even thanking her for the lesson she had given him, thus removing the last vestige of a possible spiritual pride, and completing the preparation for his work in the West.

Never since the day Swamiji perceived Edith's need for help has he been out of her mind. Many times in the last fifty years she has remembered the words spoken at their last meeting: "It ever you are in trouble, you can call on me. No matter where I am, I'll hear you." Many ordeals she has met bravely, sustained by that promise.

In one of his lectures Swamiji said, "If a bad time comes, what of that? The pendulum must swing back to the other side. But that is no better. The thing to do is to stop it." Then he uttered an American expression which children used to use when swinging, when they would stop pumping and let the swing slow down to a halt: "Let the old cat die."

To have seen and heard Swamiji and to have felt his words of power flow through me on to paper and thence to print for many to read, thereby receiving courage and inspiration, is a rare privilege and is compensation for all ills of life. It makes me almost ready to let the old cat die.

( 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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