Friday, 30 June 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Josephine MacLeod : 11

That summer General Paterson, the American Consul General, allowed me to have the Consulate, and there I had as guest Mr. Oda, who had been my host at the Asakusa temple in Tokyo.

I saw Swami off and on all that year. One day in April he said, "I have nothing in the world, I haven't a penny to myself. I have given away everything that has ever been given to me." I said, "Swami, I will give you fifty dollars a month as long as you live." He thought a minute and then he said, "Can I live on that?" "Yes, O yes," I said, "but perhaps you cannot have cream." I gave him then two hundred dollars, but before the four months were passed he had gone.

At Belur Math one day, while Sister Nivedita was distributing prizes for some athletics. I was standing in Swamiji's bedroom at the Math, at the window, watching, and he said to me, "I shall never see forty." I, knowing he was thirty-nine, said to him. "But Swami, Buddha did not do his great work until between forty and eighty." But he said. "I delivered my message and I must go." I asked. "Why go?" and he said, "The shadow of a big tree will not let the smaller trees grow up, I must go to make room."

Afterwards I went again to the Himalayas. I did not see Swami again. I went back to Europe for the King's Jubilee, As I said, I never was a disciple, only a friend, but I remember in my last letter to him in April 1902, as I was leaving India — I was never to see him again — I distinctly remember writing in this good-bye letter the one sentence, "I swim or sink with you." I read that over three times and said. "Do I mean it?" And I did. And it went. And he received it. though I never had an answer. He died July 4.1902.

On the second of July, Sister Nivedita saw him for the last time. She went to inquire whether she should teach a certain science in her school. Swami answered, "Perhaps you are right, but my mind is given to other things. I am preparing for death." So she thought he was indifferent. Then he said. "But you must have a meal." Sister Nivedita always ate with her fingers, a la Hindu; and after she had eaten. Swami poured water over her hands. She said, very much the disciple, "I cannot bear you to do this." He answered. "Jesus Christ washed the feet of his disciples. "Sister Nivedita had it on the tip of her tongue to say. "But that was the last time they ever met." It was the last time she ever saw him. That last day he spoke to her of me and of many people, but when he spoke of me he said, "She is pure as purity, loving as love itself." So I always took that as Swamiji's last message to me. In two days he died having said, "The spiritual impact that has come here to Belur will last fifteen hundred years — and this will be a great university. Do not think I imagine it, I see it."

They cabled me on the fourth of July, "Swami attained nirvana." For days I was stunned. I never answered it. And then the desolation that seemed to fill my life made me weep for years and it was only after I read Maeterlinck who said, "If you have been greatly influenced by anyone, "prove it in your life, and not by your tears". I never wept again; but went back to America and tried to follow the traces of where he had lived. I went to Thousand Island Park and became the guest of Miss Dutcher to whom the cottage belonged, who gave me the same room that Swami had used.

Fourteen years elapsed before I returned to India. Then I went accompanying Professor and Mrs. Geddes. I then found, instead of India being a place of desolation, all India was alive with Swamiji's ideas, with half a dozen monasteries, thousands of centres, hundreds of societies. Since that time I have been going frequently. They like to have me at the monastery guest house, because I keep Vivekananda alive, as none of these young men have ever seen him. And I like to be in India, remembering once when I asked him, "Swamiji, how can I best help you?" his answer was, "Love India!" So the upper floor of the guest house at the monastery is mine where I go and will probably go winters, until the end.

(Prabuddha Bharata, December 1949).

To be continued.... (Memoirs of  Josephine MacLeod)