Swamiji always attracted attention wherever he went. He had a majestic bearing which everybody recognized. As he would walk down Market Street, people would stand aside to let him pass or turn around and ask. "Who is the Hindu prince?" It was in this way that he was able to see a ship launched from the actual launching platform. Tom was working in one of the big iron works of San Francisco at the time. and when Swamiji expressed a wish to see a launching, he invited a little group to the shipyard. The launching platform was closed except to the invited guests of the management who had tickets, and the ramp leading to the platform was guarded by two attendants. Swamiji decided he would have a better view from the launching platform, so he just calmly walked past the guards, who made no protest. When he came down, after the launching, he said. "It is like the birth of a child."
Swamiji emphasized the fact that spiritual people are not fanatical or severe. "They are not long-faced and thin." he said. "They are fat, like me."
During one of the talks in Miss Bell's tent at Camp Irving. Miss Bell remarked that the world is a school where we come to learn our lesson. Swamiji asked. "Who told you that the world is a school?"
Miss Bell was silent. Swamiji went on, "This world is a circus, and we are clowns come to tumble." Miss Bell asked, "Why do we tumble. Swamiji?" Swamiji replied. "Because we like to tumble. When we get tired of tumbling, we quit."
Tom and Edith had an apartment in San Francisco which was permeated with the atmosphere of Swamiji. All the Swamis of the Ramakrishna Order in this country loved to visit them when they went to San Francisco, and some of them said or wrote. "You, more than anybody else in the West, are able to make Swamiji real to us." One of my friends said of them when she and her son visited the Allans a few years ago that their account of Swami Vivekananda was so full of joy and so vivid, it seemed as though he himself could walk into the room. There was a beautiful picture of him in the dining room, and the guests were always seated facing it. Chanting always preceded the meal, and there was little talk of anything during it other than of Swamiji, his Master, and his work. All his books were there, and the Allans had an enormous collection of pictures which they enjoyed showing to their guests. One particular favourite was taken in a garden. Swamiji was lying on the grass, enjoying a conversation with some friends, when someone came and wanted to take his picture. He did not want to get up but, urged by all to do so, he stood up, just as he was, without turban or robe, against a background of flowering vines, looking as if about to speak, and the result is one of his best portraits.
Edith had a nice contralto voice, and sometimes she would sing, with deep feeling, some of the songs associated with Swamiji. A favourite was the song of the nautch-girl, which she adapted from Swamiji's translation of a song sung by a courtesan in the palace of a Raja where he was staying just before leaving for America the first time. Although he left the room when he learnt that this girl was about to sing, he heard the song from outside and was so moved by the words and her manner of singing that he returned and spoke most beautifully to her, even thanking her for the lesson she had given him, thus removing the last vestige of a possible spiritual pride, and completing the preparation for his work in the West.
Never since the day Swamiji perceived Edith's need for help has he been out of her mind. Many times in the last fifty years she has remembered the words spoken at their last meeting: "It ever you are in trouble, you can call on me. No matter where I am, I'll hear you." Many ordeals she has met bravely, sustained by that promise.
In one of his lectures Swamiji said, "If a bad time comes, what of that? The pendulum must swing back to the other side. But that is no better. The thing to do is to stop it." Then he uttered an American expression which children used to use when swinging, when they would stop pumping and let the swing slow down to a halt: "Let the old cat die."
To have seen and heard Swamiji and to have felt his words of power flow through me on to paper and thence to print for many to read, thereby receiving courage and inspiration, is a rare privilege and is compensation for all ills of life. It makes me almost ready to let the old cat die.
Letter To the Hale Sisters
To the Hale Sisters...26th June, 1894.
"Fool! whom art thou bending thy tottering knees before, in awe and fear? I took my necklace and put it round His neck; and, tying a string to it as a collar, I am dragging Him along with me, for fear He may fly away even for a moment that necklace was the collar of love; that string the ecstasy of love. Fool! you know not the secret — the Infinite One comes within my fist under the bondage of love." "Knowest thou not that the Lord of the Universe is the bond slave of love?" "Knowest thou not that the Mover of the Universe used to dance to the music of the ringing bracelets of the shepherdesses of Vrindaban?" 26 June 1895 to Mary Hale :
I am enjoying this place immensely. Very little eating and good deal of thinking and talking and study. A wonderful calmness is coming over my soul. Every day I feel I have no duty to do; I am always in eternal rest and peace. It is He that works. We are only the instruments. Blessed be His name! The threefold bondage of lust and gold and fame is, as it were, fallen from me for the time being, and once more, even here, I feel what sometimes I felt in India, "From me all difference has fallen, all right or wrong, all delusion and ignorance has vanished, I am walking in the path beyond the qualities." What law I obey, what disobey? From that height the universe looks like a mud-puddle. Hari Om Tat Sat. He exists; nothing else does. I in Thee and Thou in me. Be Thou Lord my eternal refuge! Peace, Peace, Peace!