Wednesday 28 June 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Josephine MacLeod : 9

It was while the Swami was at Ridgely Manor that a letter came from a lady unknown to us to say our only brother was very ill in Los Angeles and that she thought, he would die and we ought to know it. So my sister said to me, "I think you must go." And I said, "Of course. "Within two hours I was packed, the horses were at the door, we had four miles to drive to a railway station, and as I went out Swami put up his hand and said some Sanskrit blessing and then he called out. "Get up some classes and I will come." I went straight to Los Angeles and in a small white cottage covered with roses, on the outskirts of the city, lay my brother, very ill. But over his bed was a life-size picture of Vivekananda, I had not seen my brother for ten years, so after I had an hour's talk with him and saw how very ill he was, I went out to see our hostess, Mrs. Blodgett and said to her. "My brother is very ill" She said, "Yes." I said, "I think he will die."She said. "Yes." "May he die here?" I asked. She said, "O yes." Then I said, "Who is that man whose portrait is over my brother's bed?" She drew herself up with all the dignity of her seventy years and said, "If ever there was a God on earth, that is the man." I said, "What do you know about him?" She answered, "I was at the Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893, and when that young man got up and said, 'Sisters and Brothers of America', seven thousand people rose to their feet as a tribute to something they knew not what; and when it was over and I saw scores of women walking over the benches to get near him, I said to myself, "Well, my lad, if you can resist that onslaught, you are indeed a God." Then I said to Mrs. Blodgett, "I know him." "You know him?" she asked. I said. "Yes, I left him in the little village of Stone Ridge, of two hundred people, in the Catskill Mountains in New York." She said, "You know him?" I said, "Why don't you ask him here?" She said, "To my cottage?" "He will come", I told her. In three weeks my brother was dead and in six weeks Swamiji was there and began his classes on the Pacific coast, in "Kalifornia".

We were Mrs. Blodgett's guests for months. This little cottage had three bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, and a sitting room. Every morning we would hear Swami chanting his Sanskrit from the bath, which was just off the kitchen. He would come out with tousled hair and get ready for breakfast. Mrs. Blodgett made delicious pancakes, and these we would eat at the kitchen table. Swami sitting with us; and such discourses he would have with Mrs. Blodgett, such repartee and wit, she talking of the villainy of men and he talking of even the greater wickedness of women! Mrs. Blodgett seldom went to hear him lecture, saying her duty was to give us delicious meals when we got back. Swami lectured a great number of times at the Home of Truth and in various halls, but perhaps the most outstanding lecture I ever heard was his talk on "Jesus of Nazareth", when he seemed to radiate a white light from head to foot, so lost was he in the wonder and the power of Christ. I was so impressed with this obvious halo that I did not speak to him on the way back for fear of interrupting. as I thought, the great thoughts that were still in his mind. Suddenly he said to me. "I know how it is done," I said, "How what is done?" "How they make mulligatawny soup. They put a bay leaf in it." he told me. That utter lack of self-consciousness, of self-importance, was perhaps one of his outstanding characteristics. He seemed to see the strength and the glory and the power of the other man who felt that courage enter into him, until everyone who came near him went away refreshed and invigorated and sustained. So when people have said to me. "What is your test of spirituality?" I have always said, "It is the courage that is given by the presence of a holy man." Swamiji used to say, "The saviours should take on the sins and tribulations of their disciples and let the disciples go on their way rejoicing and free. There is the difference! The saviours should carry the burdens."

Another thing he once said to my niece at Ridgely Manor is, "Alberta, no fact in life will ever equal your imagination of it."

One day Mrs. Blodgett had three ladies come to call on the Swami. I left immediately, so he could be alone with them; and after half an hour he came to me and said. "These ladies are three sisters and they want me to come and make them a visit at Pasadena," I said. "Go." He said, "Shall I?" "Yes, go." I told him. They were Mrs. Hansborough. Miss Mead. and Mrs. Wyckoff. Mrs. Wyckoff's house is now the Vivekananda House in Hollywood, and one of Swamiji's monks is there with her.

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

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