Saturday 24 June 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Josephine MacLeod : 5

When we arrived in Bombay they were very keen that we stay there; but we took the first train to Calcutta, and at four o'clock on the second morning following Swamiji met us with a dozen disciples. There were a score of other distinguished Indians with purple and gold and crimson turbans, to whom Mrs. Ole Bull had offered hospitality when they were in America. They covered us with garlands. We were literally enwrapped with flowers. It is always frightening to me to have garlands put on. Mrs. Ole Bull and I went to a hotel and Mr. Mohini Chatterjee came and stayed there from five o'clock in the afternoon until ten at night. I happened to remark, "I hope your wife will not be worried? He answered; "I will explain to mother when I get home." I did not understand what that meant. After I knew Mr. Chatterjee well enough, perhaps a year later, I said to him. "What did you mean that first day when you said you would explain to mother?" He answered, "O, I never go to my room for the night without first going to my mother's room and confiding to her everything that happened during the day." "But your wife?" I said, "Don't you confide to her?" He answered. "My wife? She gels that relation from her son." Then I realized that fundamental difference between the Indian and our Western civilizations. The Indian civilization is based upon motherhood, and our civilization is based upon wifehood, which makes a tremendous difference.

In a day or two we went up to see Swami at his temporary monastery at Belur, at Nilambar Mukherjee's garden-house. During the afternoon Swami said, "I must take you to the new monastery that we are buying." I said, "O, but Swami, isn't this big enough?" It was a lovely little villa he had, with perhaps an acre or two of land, a small lake and many flowers. I thought it was big enough for anyone. But he evidently saw things in a different scale. So he took us across little gullies to the place where is now the present monastery. Mrs. Ole Bull and I, finding this old riverside house empty, said, "Swami, can't we use this house?" "It isn't in order," he answered. "But we'll put it in order," we told him. With that he gave us permission. So we had it all newly whitewashed and went down to the bazars, bought old mahogany furniture and made a drawing-room half of which was Indian style and half of which was Western style. We had an outside dining room, our bedroom with an extra room for Sister Nivedita who was our guest until we went to Kashmir. We stayed there quite two months. It was perhaps the most beautiful time we ever had with Swamiji. He came every morning for early tea which he used to take under the great mango tree. That tree is still in existence. We never allowed them to cut it down, though they were keen to do it. He loved our living at that riverside cottage; and he would bring all those who came to visit him, to see what a charming home we had made of this house he had thought uninhabitable. In the afternoons we used to give tea-parties in front of the house, in full view of the river, where always could be seen loads of boats going up-stream, we receiving as if we were in our own drawing-rooms, Swamiji loved all that intimate use we made of things which they took as a matter of course. One night there came one of those deluges of rain, like sheets of water. He paced up and down our outside dining room veranda, talking of Krishna and the love of Krishna and the power that love was in the world. He had a curious quality that when he was a bhakta, a lover, he brushed aside karma and raja and jnana yogas as if they were of no consequence whatever. And when he was a karma-yogi, then he made that the great theme. Or equally so, the jnana. Sometimes, weeks, he would fall in one particular mood utterly disregardful of what he had been, just previous to that. He seemed to be filled with an amazing power of concentration; of opening up to the great Cosmic qualities that are all about us. It was probably that power of concentration that kept him so young and so fresh, he never seemed to repeat himself. There would be an incident of very tittle consequence which would illuminate a whole new passage for him. And he had such a place for us Westerners whom he called "Living Vedantins". He would say, "When you believe a thing is true, you do it, you do not dream about it. That is your power."

It was one rainy night that Swami brought the Ceylonese Buddhist monk. Anagarika Dharmapala, to visit us. Mrs. Ole Bull, Sister Nivedita, and I were so happily housed in this cottage, it gave Swami particular joy to show his guests how simply Western women could settle there and make a real home.

To be continued.... (Memoirs of  Josephine MacLeod)

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