Monday 3 July 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Sister Christine : 2


There are times when life flows on in a steady deadly stream of monotony. Eating, sleeping, talking — the same weary round. Commonplace thoughts, stereotyped ideas, the eternal tread-mill. Tragedy comes. For a moment it shocks us into stillness. But we cannot keep still. The merry-go-round stops neither for our sorrow nor our happiness. Surely this is not all there is to life. This is not what we are here for. Restlessness comes. What are we waiting for? Then one day it happens, the stupendous things for which we have been waiting — that which dispels the deadly monotony, which turns the whole of life into a new channel, which eventually takes one to a far away country and sets one among strange people with different customs and a different outlook upon life, to a people with whom from the very first we feel a strange kinship, a wonderful people who know what they are waiting for, who recognize the purpose of life. Our restlessness is stilled for ever.

After many incarnations, after untold suffering, struggle, and conquest, comes fruition. But this one does not know until long, long after. A tiny seed grows into the mighty banyan. A few feet of elevation on a fairly level plain, determine whether a river shall flow north and eventually reach the icy Arctic Ocean or south, until it finds itself in the warm waters of the Black or Caspian Sea. Little did I think when I reluctantly set out one cold February night in 1894 to attend a lecture at the Unitarian Church in Detroit that I was doing something which would change the whole course of my life and be of such stupendous import that it could not be measured by previous standards I had known. Attending lectures had been part of the deadly monotony. How seldom did one hear anything new or uplifting! The lecturers who had come to Detroit that winter had been unusually dull. So unvarying had been the disillusion, that one had given up hope and with it the desire to hear more. So that I went very unwillingly to this particular lecture to hear one "Vive Kananda, a monk from India", and only in response to the pleading of my friend Mrs. Mary C. Funke. With her beautifully optimistic nature, she had kept her illusions and still believed that some day she would find "That Something". We went to hear this "Man from India". Surely never in our countless incarnations had we taken a step so momentous! For before we had listened five minutes, we knew that we had found the touchstone for which we had searched so long. In one breath, we exclaimed — "If we had missed this... !"

To those who have heard much of the personal appearance of the Swami Vivekananda, it may seem strange that it was not this which made the first outstanding impression. The forceful virile figure which stepped upon the platform was unlike the emaciated, ascetic type which is generally associated with spirituality in the West. A sickly saint everyone understands, but who ever heard of a powerful saint? The power that emanated from this mysterious being was so great that one all but shrank from it. It was overwhelming. It threatened to sweep everything before it. This one sensed even in those first unforgettable moments. Later we were to see this power at work. It was the mind that made the first great appeal, that amazing mind! What can one say that will give even a faint idea of its majesty, its glory, its splendour? It was a mind so far transcending other minds, even of those who rank as geniuses, that it seemed different in its very nature. Its ideas were so clear, so powerful, so transcendental that it seemed incredible that they could have emanated from the intellect of a limited human being. Yet marvellous as the ideas were and wonderful as was that intangible something that flowed out from the. mind, it was all strangely familiar. I found myself saying, "I have known that mind before". He burst upon us in a blaze of reddish gold, which seemed to have caught and concentrated the sun's rays. He was barely thirty, this preacher from far away India. Young with an ageless youth and yet withal old with the wisdom of ancient times. For the first time we heard the age-old message of India, teaching of the atman, the true Self.

To be continued.... (Memoirs of  Sister Christine)

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