Monday, 10 July 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Sister Christine : 7

THE DISCIPLES AT THOUSAND ISLAND PARK

.....In a room below lived Stella. It was several days before we saw her, for she seldom came up to the classes, being, as we were given to understand, too deeply engrossed in ascetic practices to break in upon them. Naturally our curiosity was excited. Later we came to understand much. She had been an actress. Past samskaras are not so easily wiped out. Was this only another play which would restore her fast fading beauty and bring back her lost youth? For strange as it may seem, the demonstration of youth, beauty, health, prosperity is considered the test of spirituality in America in these benighted days. How could Swami Vivekananda understand that anyone could put such an interpretation upon his lofty teaching? How much did he understand, we wondered. And then one day he said, "I like that Baby. She is so artless." This met with a dead silence. Instantly his whole manner changed, and he said very gravely, "I call her Baby hoping that it will make her childlike, free from art and guile." Perhaps for the same reason, for her ishta (chosen ideal), he gave her Gopala, the Baby Krishna. When we separated for the summer, she went to live on a small island in Orchard Lake. There she built a tiny one-roomed house and lived alone. Strange stories began to be circulated about her. She wore a turban; she practised uncanny rites, called yoga. No one knew the meaning of yoga. It was a strange foreign word that had to do with India — the mysterious, and with occultism. Newspaper men came to interview her. One well-known writer tells the story of his first success. He was a lad engaged in running an elevator (lift) for his living. He wrote the story of this young woman practising yoga on an island not far away. He sent it to the Detroit Free Press and to his astonishment it was accepted. Long afterwards when his position was assured, he said. "After that I expected that everything I wrote would be accepted at once." Alas, the road to fame is not so easy. It was a long up-hill struggle. It was years before his name became so well-known and his manuscripts received respectful attention. Since then he had learnt the true meaning of yoga, and India has become for him the "Holy Land" to which one goes, not as a tourist but as a pilgrim. The scene of his first novel was laid largely in India. With what feeling and what rare insight he depicted the Indian village to which his hero comes at dusk! The homesick wanderer who reads the book lives in India again for a few hours. Who shall say that this career was not inspired in part at least by Swami Vivekananda, especially since the writer came to know him personally? It was he who said, "There is a glow about everyone who was in any way associated with Vivekananda. "Stella went back to live the ordinary human life, and none of us knew anything of her afterwards until news came of her death a few months ago. What life had held for her during those thirty years in which she voluntarily cut herself off from all connection with us, even from him who had planted and watered the seed, who can say? One can only believe that the seed so planted bore fruit worthy of the planting.

Of Mrs. Funke Swamiji said, "She gives me freedom." He was seldom more spontaneous than in her presence. "She is naive," he said on another occasion. This amused her, for she did not spare herself in her efforts to meet his moods. Perhaps more than any of us she realized how much he needed rest and relaxation. The body and mind should not be kept at so great a tension all the time. While others were afraid of losing even a word, she thought how she could amuse him. She would tell funny stories, often at her own expense, and talk lightly and entertainingly. "She rests me," he said to one. To the same one, she said, "I know he thinks I am a fool, but I don't care as long as it amuses him." Is it because of her attitude of not wanting to gather anything from one who had so much to give, that she most of all retains the impress of his personality undistorted? Her sunny disposition, her optimism, her enthusiasm, were refreshing. Nor was she less attractive in other ways, possessing beauty, grace, and charm to an unusual degree. Even today, in spite of her physical disability, the old charm is there. Nothing rekindles the flame and brings the fire of enthusiasm to such a glow as conversation about the Swami, He lives. One actually feels his presence. It is a blessed experience. Who can doubt that when the time comes for her to drop the body which has now become such a burden, she will find the darkness illumined and in that luminous atmosphere a radiant presence who will give her that great gift — Freedom
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To be continued.... (Memoirs of  Sister Christine)