Tuesday 7 February 2017

8 Feb 1897 Swamiji in Chennai

Some incidents which occurred on Monday, February 8, the day following the mammoth meeting, are recorded by Prof. Sundararama Iyer:


           At about noon, Prof. P. Lakshmi Narasu -- whom I have always esteemed as a gentleman of great learning and high character -- came to the Castle, accompanied by the late Mr. N. K. Ramaswamy Iyer. Mr. Lakshmi Narasu was a student of science and an avowed Buddhist, but I did not know who his companion was. The latter gentleman I learnt was the publisher, and the former the editor and the leading (or even the sole) contributor to a journal which was appearing somewhat irregularly and abandoned after a few issues had been published, called The Awakener of India.... These two visitors of the Swami were evidently of opinion that his mission and labours in America and the propaganda work started in Madras at his instance by publication of the Brahmavadin and Prabuddha Bharata [Awakened India] had yet had no effect in imparting a new impulse of activity, and India still remained sunk as deep as ever in her lethargic slumber of ages. Their own Awakener of India, however, was, [according to them] on the whole, a bright and rousing performance while it lasted.... As I entered the room, his companion, whom we all knew well during his subsequent career, was saying, "We want, Swami, to have a free talk on various problems of philosophy and religion, especially on the Vedanta to which we have strong objections...." I took my seat, when the Swami called me to his side. Soon he said, with his usual smile lightening up his face, "Here is my friend, Sundararaman; he has been a Vedantist all his life, and he will meet all your arguments. You can refer to him." This greatly enraged N. K. Ramaswami Iyer who turned to me with eyes betokening scorn, if not contempt, and then turned once more to the Swami, "We have come here to meet you, and not any other person." The Swami did not reply, of course. Meanwhile, other persons and topics turned up....


           In the afternoon of the same day, a deputation of Shaivites from Tiruppattur, armed with a sheet of questions on Advaita doctrine, met the Swami. Knowing that he was an Advaitin, they had come, or perhaps had been sent, to beard the lion in his den. Their first question was: "How does the Unmanifested become the manifest?" Like a bolt from the blue came the Swami's reply: "Questions of how, why, or wherefore relate to the manifested world, and not to the Unmanifested, which is above all change and causation, and therefore above all relation to the changing universe.... The question, therefore, is not one which can be reasonably put. Put a proper question... and I will answer." The reply simply paralysed the questioners. They found that they were face to face with a master who could not be trapped in a game of dialectics, and before whom it were better to bow down in humility. Their questions were forgotten. As Prof. Sundararama Iyer says, they felt the wand of the magician. The enchanting power of the Swami's personality stole over their minds and hearts. This lion of Vedanta and master of dialectics began to speak to those present in captivating tones of tenderness. The gist of what he said was: "The best way to serve and to seek God is to serve the needy, to feed the hungry, to console the stricken, to help the fallen and friendless, to attend and serve those who are ill and require service." After listening to the Swami's passionate plea for service to humanity, the deputation left. Their faces showed that their hearts had been touched, and that for them a new light had been thrown on life.

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