Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda by S.E. Waldo
...About the middle of June, six or eight students gathered in the little house at Thousand Island Park; and true to his promise, Swami Vivekananda came there on the 20th of the month and remained for seven blessed weeks. A few more students joined us. until we numbered twelve, including our hostess. To those who were fortunate enough to be there with the Swami, those are weeks of ever hallowed memory, so fraught were they with unusual opportunity for spiritual growth. No words can describe what that blissful period meant (and still means) to the devoted little band who followed the Swami from New York to the Island in the St. Lawrence, who daily served him with joy and listened to him with heartfelt thankfulness. His whole heart was in his work, and he taught like one inspired. Every morning he could hardly wait for the household duties to be attended to, so eager was he to begin his work of teaching. As early as it could be managed, we gathered around him, and for two and sometimes three hours he would steadily expound the teachings of his Master Shri Ramakrishna. These ideas were new and strange to us, and we were slow in assimilating them; but the Swami's patience never flagged, his enthusiasm never waned. In the afternoons, he talked to us more informally, and we took usually a long walk. Every evening we adjourned to an upstairs piazza that commanded a glorious view over the waters and islands of the broad river, it was an enchanting picture that our eyes rested upon. At our left stretched a thick wood, the tops of its waving trees like a lake of vivid green, gradually lost themselves in the dancing blue waters of the St. Lawrence. Not one building of any kind was in sight, save a hotel on a distant island whose many gleaming lights were reflected on the shimmering waves. We were alone with nature, and it was a fitting scene in which to listen to the utterances of such a Teacher. The Swami did not appear to address us directly, but rather seemed to be speaking to himself in words of fire, as it were, so intense were they, so eloquent and convincing, burning into the very hearts of his listeners never to be forgotten. We listened in utter silence, almost holding our breath for fear of disturbing the current of his thoughts, or losing one of those inspired words.
As the days and weeks passed by, we began to really understand and grasp the meaning of what we heard, and we gladly accepted the teaching. Every one of the students there, received initiation at the hands of the Swami, thus becoming disciples, the Swami assuming towards them the position of guru, or spiritual father, as is done in India, where the tie uniting guru and disciple is the closest one known, outranking that of parent and child, or even husband and wife. It was purely a coincidence that there were just twelve of us!
The ceremony of initiation was impressive from its extreme simplicity. A small altar fire, beautiful flowers, and the earnest words of the Teacher alone marked it as different from our daily lessons. It took place at sunrise of a beautiful summer day, and the scene still lives fresh in our memories. Of those who became Brahmacharinis at Thousand Island Park, two are dead, and one is now in India helping to carry on the work nearest to Swami Vivekananda's heart, the uplifting of his fellow-countrymen. Most of the others have rendered faithful service in the cause of Vedanta during the ten years that have passed since then. (A more detailed description of the events at Thousand Island Park is available in the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda as Inspired Talks.)
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