Sunday 1 October 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Martha Brown Fincke : 4

Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda by Martha Brown Fincke

...In speaking with a Swami... at the Belur Math, he said that to him Swami Vivekananda personified Love. To me that night he personified Power. I think that I can explain this from my later knowledge. No doubt these great men of our college world were narrow-minded, of closed convictions, "wise in their own conceits". How could they accept the saying "Whosoever comes to Me through whatsoever form, I reach him"? At Chicago the Swami had recently felt the rancour of Christian missionaries, and undoubtedly his accents took on an austerity as he felt the same spirit in these representatives of Western learning. To them Love would not appeal, but Power can awe even when it does not force agreement. The discussion, beginning with the utmost courtesy-became less cordial, then bitterness crept in, a resentment on the part of the champions of Christianity as they felt that it was "thumbs down" for them. And truly it was. The repercussion of the triumph that filled me then is with me to this day.

Early the next morning loud splashings came from the bathroom, and mingling with them a deep voice chanting in an unknown tongue. I believe that a group of us huddled near the door to listen. At breakfast we asked him the meaning of the chant. He replied. "I first put the water on my forehead, then on my breast, and each time I chant a prayer for blessings on all creatures". This struck me forcibly. I was used to a morning prayer, but it was for myself first that I prayed, then for my family. It had never occurred to me to include all mankind in my family and to put them before myself.

After breakfast the Swami suggested a walk, and we four students, two on each side, escorted the majestic figure proudly through the streets. As we went, we shyly tried to open conversation. He was instantly responsive and smiled showing his beautiful teeth. I only remember one thing he said. Speaking of Christian doctrines, he remarked how abhorrent to him was the constant use of the term "the blood of Christ". That made me think. I had always hated the hymn "There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel's veins", but what daring to criticize an accepted doctrine of the Church! My "free-thinking" certainly dates from the awakening given me by that freedom-loving soul. I led the conversation to the Vedas, those holy books of India he had mentioned in his lecture. He advised me to read them for myself, preferably in the original. I then and there made a resolve to learn Sanskrit, a purpose which I regret to say I have never fulfilled. Indeed as far as outward result goes, I am a case of the good seed choked by thorns.

One rather humorous outcome of this advice about the Vedas should not be omitted. The following summer a pretty little Guernsey calf was added to the family livestock, and when my father gave it to me. I named it "Veda". Unfortunately the little one only lived a few months and my father said its name had killed it.

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