Saturday 9 June 2018

Drawn into the Orbit of the New Buddha - 4

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

Because the story of a child born in a manger, his parents denied a room at the inn, is no longer just a simple story of strange events that happened long ago. It isn't a fairy tale. Every image in the story has been etched in beautiful, nay, magical script into the minds of the devout, so that it speaks volumes, and the narration evokes the same wonder every Christmas Eve.

That evocative power didn't manifest overnight. It took several centuries. As the focus shifted from the actual life of the Great Teacher to the Teacher Universal—from Jesus of Naz areth to the Logos, the 'Word' and Wisdom of God—and as it shifted from the humble mother Mary to the 'Portal Whence the Light of the World Has Arisen', these images took on cosmic significance.

And so now, when we, the followers of Sri Ramakrishna, read about the first meeting between Narendra and Sri Ramakrishna, we find it beautiful and inspiring. But in time we will see in it so much more. Narendra was not just one more English-educated young Indian who came to the almost unlettered village priest. He was Nara, as Sri Ramakrishna said, the sage of Indian mythology. Nara means 'man', and Narendra was not a man, but Maniconic Man, the incarnation of Man, the Ideal Man behind manifest men; and he was meeting Sri Ramakrishna, the incarnation of Narayana.

Admittedly, that sounds like primitive mythological thinking. It is mythological thinking, but not primitive; it is living mythology, based on the considered belief that in time, people around the world will see that Swami Vivekananda represents something universal, as did Sri Ramakrishna, call them what one will—Nara and Narayana or something else. The idea is, they represent universals—the Human and the Divine—and will be recognised as such in time.

And so the meeting between Narendra and Sri Ramakrishna will reveal the meeting of Man with God, the meeting of the Modern World with Ancient Wisdom, the meeting of the seeking Soul within each of us with the Divine Response, the meeting of a world lost in materiality with its Divine Source. The meeting itself will convey rich and endless overtones which blend into the Infinite. Narendra's first question to Sri Ramakrishna—'Have you seen God?'—will be our question. Sri Ramakrishna's response will be his response to us. Even small incidents will reveal great truths.

Sister Nivedita also was lifted into this cosmic lila of the Ramakrishna phenomenon, transformed into one of the actors on stage. First of all, and easiest to describe, she was a witness to Swamiji, in the West and in India, over several years. More than a witness, she was a scribe who wrote down much of what she saw and heard, in far greater detail and more systematically than other close witnesses. More than a scribe, she gave a vast context within which to understand Swamiji. Therefore Swami Ramakrishnananda once said that Nivedita had understood Swamiji more than anyone else.

Sister Nivedita, perhaps more than anyone else of her time, more than those of our time, saw the historical significance of Swamiji, as he had been the one to see the historical significance of Sri Ramakrishna. Other disciples knew Sri Ramakrishna's spiritual greatness, but no one else saw, as Swamiji did, the vast historical context of his life. Swamiji once said that even Sri Ramakrishna himself was not conscious of it: 'He did not understand himself ... But he lived that great life—and I read the meaning.' Swamiji did know the significance of his own life, saying on the day that he died: 'If there were another Vivekananda, he would have understood what Vivekananda has done! And yet, how many Vivekanandas shall be born in time!!' But he didn't elaborate. Sister Nivedita did.

To be continued.. -Swami Atmarupananda (PB Jan 2017)

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