The training Swamiji gave was individualistic and unique. Unless the desire for discipleship was definitely expressed, and unless he was convinced that the aspirant was ready for the step, he left the personal life of those around him untouched. To some he gave absolute freedom and in that freedom they were caught. When speaking of some of those whom we did not know, he was careful to explain,"He is not a disciple; he is a friend." It was an altogether different relation. Friends might have obvious faults and prejudices. Friends might have a narrow outlook, might be quite conventional, but it was not for him to interfere. It seemed as if even an opinion, where it touched the lives of others, was an unpardonable intrusion upon their privacy. But once having accepted him as their guru, all that was changed. He felt responsible. He deliberately attacked foibles, prejudices, valuations — in fact everything that went to make up the personal self. Did you, in your immature enthusiasm, see the world as beautiful, and believe in the reality of good and the unreality of evil? He was not long in destroying all your fine illusions. If good is real, so is evil. Both are different aspects of the same thing. Both good and evil are in maya. Do not hide your head in the sand and say. "All is good, there is no evil." Worship the terrible even as now you worship the good. Then get beyond both. Say, "God is the only Reality," Shall we have the courage to say that the world is beautiful when disaster comes upon us? Are not others the prey of disaster now? Is not the world full of sorrow? Are not thousands of lives overshadowed by tragedy? Are not disease, old age, and death rampant upon the earth? In the face of all this anyone who lightly says. "The world is beautiful", is either ignorant or indifferent to the sorrows of others — self-centred.
Terrible in its sternness was this teaching. But soon there came glimpses of something beyond, an unchanging Reality. Beyond birth and death is immortality; beyond pleasure and pain is that ananda which is man's true nature; beyond the vicissitudes of life is the changeless. The Self of man remains serene in its own glory. As these great ideas became part of our consciousness, we "saw a new heaven and a new earth". "For him, to whom the Self has become all things, what sorrow, what pain, can there be, once he has beheld that Unity?" Without once saying. "Be sincere, be true, be singleminded", he created in us the most intense desire to attain these qualities. How did he do it? Was it his own sincerity, his own truth, his own straightness which one sensed?
To be continued.... (Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda by Sister Christine)