On the evening of Thursday, February 11, the Swami delivered his second public lecture, "The Sages of India", in the Victoria Hall. The place was crowded to capacity. The Hon'ble N. Subba Rao was in the chair. Among those present were H. Beauchamp, Editor of the Madras Mail, the Hon'ble Subrahmanya Iyer, Raja Sir S. Ramaswamy Moodeliar, and others. The Swami first drew attention to the distinction that Hinduism makes between two grades of truth taught in two grades of scripture. The Shrutis, consisting of the Vedas, teach eternal truths; the Smritis, consisting of the codes of Manu and others, and of the Puranas and Tantras, teach contingent truths appropriate to particular circumstances. The impersonal principles taught by the Shrutis stand on their own foundation of truth, without dependence on reasoning or on the authority of any person or persons. But it was always recognized that the majority of mankind must have a Personal God to worship, and spiritual personalities to inspire them. The Smritis give ample scope for this.
The knowledge which the Vedas declare comes through being a Rishi (sage). But the state of Rishi is not limited to the past. Indeed, the Swami says, "until each one of you has become a Rishi and come face to face with spiritual facts, religious life has not begun for you." "Religion is not in books... nor in dogmas.... It is being and becoming...."
Of the world-moving sages and great Incarnations, Rama and Krishna are worshipped the most in India. Rama... the embodiment of truth, of morality, was the ideal son, ideal husband, ideal father, ideal king. But, cries the Swami in the fervour of his thought, "there may have been several Ramas, perhaps, but never more than one Sita! She is the very type of the true Indian woman... and here she stands these thousands of years, commanding the worship of every man, woman, and child... this glorious Sita.... She is there in the blood of every Hindu man and Woman...."
Then came Shri Krishna -- of the Gopis, and of the Gita. To have that love for God that the Gopis had, that is the goal. As to the Gita, "no better commentary on the Vedas has been written or can be written". Shri Krishna was the great teacher of harmony. But that did not prevent a long period of conflict, especially between the king and priests. "And from the topmost crest of the wave that deluged India for nearly a thousand years, we see another glorious figure, and that was our Gautama Shakyamuni [the Buddha]." But Buddhism in its turn became degraded. Then "the marvellous boy Shankaracharya arose". He showed that "the real essence of Buddhism and that of Vedanta are not very different". Then came Ramanuja, he of great heart who felt for the downtrodden.
Coming down to the present age, "the time was ripe for one to be born," he said, "who in one body would have the brilliant intellect of Shankara and the wonderfully expansive, infinite heart of Chaitanya.... Such a man was born, and I had the good fortune to sit at his feet for years.... He was a strange man, this Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa... the fulfilment of the Indian sages, the sage for the time.... If I have told you one word of truth, it was his and his alone...."