One night I participated in a discovery. Vivekananda had been particularly brilliant. His conversation was like Ganga at high flood. There was really no interrupting him. A question might deflect him for a moment, but presently he was moving again on the main current of his speech. At the close of an unusually eloquent period he bowed slightly to each of us then arose and quietly left the saloon. The civilian sitting opposite Mr. Drake Brockman leaned across the table.
"Have you noticed that when the Indian gentleman is interrupted, he begins again where he left off?"
"Yes, we both had noticed it."
"He is repeating one of his lectures for our private benefit"
And so it was. But even so, it was an amazingly interesting performance, many leagues beyond the ordinary chitchat on board ship.
Vivekananda was a patriot much more than philosopher, I think his passion for the Vedantic propaganda was because this seemed to him the surest way of fostering Indian nationhood. I believe in this he was mistaken; nevertheless, my recognition of his patriotism washed away completely my first unhappy impression of him and enabled me to know him as I think he would be glad to be remembered by his country-men — not as a religionist propagating an ancient creed, but as a lover of his own land seeking to promote her good in the society of modem nations.
It was this passion for his country, short-circuited by a misapprehension of the purpose of Christian missions, that brought on an explosion. One evening, over the nuts and coffee, the conversation had turned on India's preparedness for self-government, (By the way, the conversation took place more than twenty-two years ago, when as yet the Montagu-Chelmsford Reform Bill was nebulous and far away; similar conversations may logically continue for one hundred and twenty-two years to come, for no nation ever yet as "prepared" for self-government.)
Suddenly Vivekananda blazed.
"Let England teach us the fine art of government," he burst forth, "for in that art Britain is the leader of the nations," then, turning to me, "let America teach us agriculture and science and your wonderful knack of doing things, for here we sit at your feet; but" — and Vivekananda's pleasant voice grew harsh with bitterness — "let no nation presume to teach India religion, for here India shall teach the world."
That night we walked over the deck together and talked of the deeper things where there are no Britons, no Americans. no Indians, but only our hungry humankind and of one Son of Man whose sacrificial blood, somewhere in the shifting sands of Asia, still abides. I think I helped the Swami to understand that no missionary in his senses is seeking to teach "religion" in India, but only to help India know and love that Man.
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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