Thursday, 3 August 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Sister Christine : 22

IN LIGHTER VEIN

...Sometimes he would tell us of his life in India — how even when he was a little child the gerua cloth exercised upon him such a spell that he would give away everything he could lay hands on when a holy man came into the courtyard. His family would lock him up when one of these men appeared. Then he would throw things out of the window. There were times when he would sit in meditation until he was lost to all outer consciousness. But the other side was there too — when he was so naughty that his mother would hold him under the tap, saying, "I asked Shiva for a son and he has sent me one of his demons!" The power which was to shake India could not be so easily harnessed! When a tutor came and poured out his knowledge, he sat like an image with his eyes closed. The enraged teacher shouted. "How dare you go to sleep when I am instructing you?" at which he opened his eyes and, to the amazement of the man, recited everything that had been said. It was not difficult to believe this story, for his memory was phenomenal. Once when someone commented on it, he said, "Yes, and my mother has the same kind of memory. After she hears the Ramayana read, she can recite what she has heard." One day, he was speaking on some point of Swedish history when a Swede, who was present, corrected him. Swamiji did not defend his position, so sure was he of the facts that he made no comment. The next day the Swede came looking rather shamefaced and said, "I looked up the matter and I find you are right, Swami." Time after time came such confirmation. He considered a good memory one of the signs of spirituality.

Many were the stories he told of his mother — the proud. little woman who tried so hard to hide her emotions and her pride in him. How she was torn between disapproval of the life he had chosen and her pride in the name he had made for himself. In the beginning she would have chosen a conventional life for him, perhaps marriage and worldly success, but she lived to see the beggar exalted and princes bowing before him. But in the meantime, hers was not an easy task. Asked, many years later, what kind of a child he was, she burst out with, "I had to have two nurses for him!"

Those of us who were privileged to see his mother, know that from her he inherited his regal bearing. This tiny woman carried herself like a queen. Many times did the American newspapers in later years refer to her son as "that lordly monk, Vivekananda". There was a virginal purity about her which it seems she was able to pass on, and which was perhaps her greatest gift. But could a soul so great find a perfect habitation? India and such parents gave him one that was a fairly satisfactory vehicle. How he loved his mother! Sometimes when he was in other parts of India the fear would come that something had happened to her, and he would send to inquire. Or perhaps he was in the monastery in Belur, in which case he would send a messenger post-haste. To the very end her comfort and her care was one of his chief considerations.

And so perhaps for days we re-lived his childhood in his father's house in the Simla quarter of Calcutta. His sisters for whom he had a special love and his father for whom he had a son's devotion, flitted across the picture. "To my father." he said, "I owe my intellect and my compassion." He would tell how his father would give money to a drunkard, knowing for what purpose it would be used. "This world is so terrible, let him forget it for a few minutes, if he can," the father would say, in self-defence. His father was lavish in his gifts. One day when he was more recklessly extravagant than usual, his youthful son said, "Father what are you going to leave me?" "Go, stand before your mirror," was the father's reply, "and you will see what I leave you."

As he grew to boyhood, his energy was turned into other directions. There came a time when he would gather his companions together and hold religious services in which preaching played an important part. "Coming events cast their shadows before." Years afterwards, Shri Ramakrishna said, that if he had not interfered. Naren would have become one of the great preachers of the world and the head of a sect of his own.

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