Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Memories of T.J. Desai - 2

In 1896 I became a member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. I came in contact with some of the best scholars of the day. Prof. Rhys Davids was the secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society. He was a reputed Sanskrit scholar. The times of the meetings were notified to the members beforehand. A paper on some subject of general interest was read, and then discussion followed. Refreshments were then served, and we had ample opportunities of exchanging our views in conversation, and of making friendship with some of the greatest literary lights of the day. The proceedings of the meetings were published in the quarterly Journal of the Society. Miss Duff and several ladies were also members of the Roval Asiatic Society and were generally found at the meetings. Miss Duff was a Sanskrit scholar and had translated into English the book called The Elements of Metaphysics by Prof. Deussen of Germany. It was quite a treat to talk with the "Blue Stockings", as highly educated ladies were nick-named in England by orthodox people. I spoke in some of the meetings of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Once I remember that a paper was read by Prof. Bain on the Upanishads. Swami Vivekananda and Mr. Ramesh Chandra Dutt. C.I.E., were also there. Sir Raymond West had taken the chair. After the paper was finished, I made a vigorous and spirited speech. I made some remarks there on "egoism" in general and love of "individuality" of Europeans, as hindrances in the way of realizing the Impersonal and Infinite Brahman. Prof. Rhys Davids was particularly tickled, and he made a violent speech. I got up again and quietly told him that I meant no offence; and that I had the greatest respect for the European intellect, but when they dabbled in the philosophy of the Upanishads and the Vedanta, they could be safely guided, in some respects, by the Hindus, as it was their forte Just as a common Arabian sailor-boy would know more about the Arabian Sea and would safely lead us to the desired place, rather than the greatest European sailor who was an utter stranger to the shoals and rocks in the Arabian Sea. The effervescence subsided, and we all had a hearty cup of tea together after the temporary storm. This was the first time I saw Mr. Dutt. He also spoke — but in a temperate persuasive manner.

Swami Vivekananda liked my speech very much, and he took me to his place, talking on various subjects on the way. Strange that the Swami had put on a top hat on that day. If I err not, it was on that day that he and some other Swami (Saradananda or Abhedananda) prepared khichudi, etc., at his place, and asked me to partake of the supper with them.

To be continued.....(Memoirs of T.J. Desai)