Saturday 26 August 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Sister Christine : 45


...Far from trying to win us by expediency and by fitting into our conceptions of what the attitude of a religious teacher towards his disciples should be, he seemed bent upon offending our sensibilities and even shocking us. Others may try to hide their faults, may eat meat and smoke in secret, reasoning with themselves that there is nothing essentially wrong in doing these things, but that one must not offend a weaker brother and should hide these things for expediency's sake. He on the contrary said. "If I do a wrong, I shall not hide it but shout it from the house-tops."

It is true that we were conventional and proper to the point of prudishness. Still even one more Bohemian might have been disconcerted. He, in the days when men did not smoke before ladies, would approach, and blow the cigarette smoke deliberately into one's face. Had it been anyone else, I should have turned my back and not spoken to him again. Even so for a moment I recoiled. I caught myself and remembered the reason for coming. I had come to one in whom I had seen such spirituality as I had never even dreamed of. From his lips I had heard truths unthought of before. He knew the way to attainment. He would show me the way. Did I intend to let a little whiff of smoke turn me back? It was all over in less time than it takes to tell it. I knew it was over in another sense as well. But more of that later.

Then we found that this man whom we had set up in our minds as an exalted being did not observe the conventions of our code. All fine men reverence womanhood; the higher the type, the greater the reverence. But here was one who gave no heed to the little attentions which ordinary men paid us. We were allowed to climb up and slide down the rocks without an extended arm to help us. When he sensed our feeling, he answered, as he so often did, our unspoken thought. "If you were old or weak or helpless, I should help you. But you are quite able to jump across this brook or climb this path without help. You are as able as I am. Why should I help you? Because you are a woman? That is chivalry, and don't you see that chivalry is only sex? Don't you see what is behind all these attentions from men to women?" Strange as it may seem, with these words came a new idea of what true reverence for womanhood means. And yet, he it was, who wishing to get the blessing of the one who is called the Holy Mother, the wife and disciple of Shri Ramakrishna, sprinkled Ganga water all the way so that he might be purified when he appeared in her presence. She was the only one to whom he revealed his intention. Without her blessing, he did not wish to go to the West. Never did he approach her without falling prostrate at her feet. Did he not worship God as Mother? Was not every woman to him a manifestation in one form or other of the Divine Mother? Yes, even those who had bartered their divinity for gold!.... Did he not see this divinity in the nautch-girl of Khetri, whereupon she, sensing his realization of her true nature, gave up her profession, lived a life of holiness, and herself came into the Great Realization? Knowing the criticism that awaited him in India, he still dared in America to initiate into sannyasa a woman, for he saw in her only the sexless Self.

To be continued.... (Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda by Sister Christine)

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