Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Sister Christine : 8

THE DISCIPLES AT THOUSAND ISLAND PARK

.....The Swami's choice of two others grew out of the theory which he then held that fanaticism is power gone astray. If this force can be transmuted and turned into a higher channel, it becomes a great power for good. There must be power. That is essential. In Marie Louise and Leon Landsberg, he saw that there was fanaticism to a marked degree, and he believed that here was material which would be invaluable. Marie Louise was, in some respects, the outstanding personality in this small community. A tall, angular woman, about fifty years of age, so masculine in appearance that one looked twice before one could tell whether she was a man or a woman. The short, wiry hair, in the days before bobbed hair was in vogue, the masculine features, the large bones, the heavy voice and the robe, not unlike that worn by men in India, made one doubtful. Her path was the highest, she announced, that of philosophy — jnana. She had been the spokesman for ultra-radical groups and had learning and some degree of eloquence, "I have magnetism of the platform," she used to say. Her vanity and personal ambition made her unfit for discipleship, and useless as a worker in Swami Vivekananda's movement. She left Thousand Islands before any of us, and soon after organized an independent centre of Vedanta in California, and later, one in Washington.

One of the most interesting, as well as the most learned of the group was Leon Landsberg, an American by citizenship and a Russian Jew by birth. He had all the great qualities of his race — emotion, imagination, a passion for learning, and a worship of genius. For three years, he was Swami Vivekananda's inseparable companion, friend, secretary, attendant. His intimate knowledge of Europe, its philosophies, its languages, its culture, gave him a profundity and depth of mind which are rare. He was fiery and picturesque. His indifference to his personal appearance, his fanaticism, his pity for the poor, which amounted to a passion, drew Swamiji to him. He often gave his last penny to a beggar, and always he gave not out of his abundance, but out of a poverty almost as great as the recipient's. He had as well a position on a New York paper which required but little of his time and gave him a small income. While he and Swamiji lived together in 33rd Street in New York, they shared what they had. Sometimes there was sufficient for both and sometimes there was nothing. After the classes were over at night, they would go out for a walk, ending with a light meal which was inexpensive, as the common purse was often empty. This did not trouble either of them. They knew that when it was needed, money would find its way into the purse again.


To be continued.... (Memoirs of  Sister Christine)