Wednesday 6 June 2018

Drawn into the Orbit of the New Buddha - 1

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

A mong the western women who played essential roles in the life of Swami Vivekananda, there were three who, following their diff erent paths of life, found them selves drawn into the orbit of Swamiji, and who through him became intimate friends for life. To think of them is to think of the great Swamiji; and as long as Swamiji is known to the world, thinking of him will call them to mind as well. Sister Nivedita, Josephine MacLeod, and Sara Bull were apostles, their lives and destinies in extricably intertwined with Swamiji's and with each other, each important in her own individual way to Swamiji's work. Th ey each felt that their meeting with Swamiji was anything but random: it was their destiny, the meeting that not only gave meaning to their birth but which seemed to be the very purpose of their birth, the goal towards which their early lives had guided them.

And each of them was individual, so finely chiselled a personality. According to Josephine MacLeod, 'It was to set me Free that Swamiji came, that was as much a part of his mission as it was to give Renunciation to Nivedita'.1 Nivedita, she said, was 'very much the disciple,' but 'I never was a disciple, only a friend' (242–3). 'Only a friend' is one of the great understatements of history: Josephine MacLeod was a Friend of the
New Buddha,2 lifted from the first sight of him into his orbit forever.

As for Sister Nivedita, there is no doubt that she was the disciple. Her name, given by Swamiji at her initiation, means 'the Dedicated'. Discipleship became the central fact of her life. But she was far more than just a disciple. She too was swept up into the orbit of this world teacher, and thus her life, like his, took on a historical significance. She is not one more of the many interesting people that met Swamiji. She is not just an early interpreter of India to the West and to India herself. She is not primarily  a pioneer in girls' education in India, nor one more figure in the stirrings of Indian nationalism. Yes, she is all of these, but these roles merely ornament her true importance. In time it will be seen that she has become universalised: through her the cosmic drama of the Great Teacher continues to play out, because she represents something much larger than the strictly historical person, much more than the Irish woman who met Swamiji and dedicated her life to the welfare of India. And that is why it is natural to celebrate Nivedita's one-hundred and fiftieth birth anniversary. Her birth will be celebrated for ages to come. There are three dominant notes in the melody of her life, without understanding which we can't possibly understand her. Josephine MacLeod mentions two of them above: Renunciation and discipleship. A third was made crystal clear by Swamiji himself: Dedication to 'the Work',3 that is, the work of Swami Vivekananda, the mission which Sri Ramakrishna had left him to accomplish, a work which will continue its forward trajectory for at least fifteen hundred years, according to Swamiji.

-Swami Atmarupananda (PB Jan 2017)

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