Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda by H.J. Van Haagen
I well remember my first meeting with the Swami Vivekananda, that great teacher whose nativity we are commemorating this evening. Though filled with prejudice by my friends, I went to one of the Swami's classes, not so much to hear his lecture as to see for the first time a native of India, the land which I had learnt to love through reading the Bhagavad-Gita, the Song Celestial. I was seated in the class-room waiting for the Swami's appearance when soon a man came in — one whose walk expressed dignity and whose general bearing showed majesty, like one who owns everything and desires nothing. After a short observation I also saw that he was a very superior man, and withal, one who quickly disclosed a most lovable character. Now I became anxious to hear the words he would speak; and after I had done so but a few minutes, I firmly resolved to be a regular attendant at all his lectures and classes. That prejudice which was so strong within me when I entered, now seemed to be driven away by his profound knowledge and charming magnetism. It would be too long to describe the great treats that followed. As wholesome food satisfies the hungry and fresh water quenches the thirsty, so my longing for truth was satisfied through the teaching of this wonderful man. And to this very day I have found nothing that gives a better answer and a clearer explanation to the various vital questions which arise in a man's mind than the Vedanta philosophy so ably taught by the Swami Vivekananda.
Not only were his words in class-room and lecture-room those of instructive value, but also his conversations, while walking on the street or through Central Park, always conveyed the one message. Many of our interesting little talks I can readily call to mind; for instance, on one occasion I expressed my regret to the Swami that his sublime teachings had no larger following, and his wise and fitting answer was: "I could have thousands more at my lectures if I wanted them. It is the sincere student who will help to make this work a success and not merely the large audiences. If I succeed in my whole life to help one man to reach freedom, I shall feel that my labours have not been in vain, but quite successful." This remark filled me with the desire to be one of his students.