Saturday 30 September 2023

Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda - Josephine Macleod - 2

We never spoke to him, had nothing much to do with him; but during that spring we were dining one night with Mr. Francis. H. Leggett, who later became my brother-in-law. "Yes, we can dine with you but we cannot spend the evening with you," we had told him. "Very well," he answered, "just dine with me." When dinner was over, he said, "Where are you going this evening?" We told him we were going to a lecture; and he asked. "Mayn't I come?" We said. "Yes." He came, he listened; and when it was over, he went up to Swamiji, shook hands with him and said. "Swami, when will you dine with me?" And it was he who introduced us to Swami socially.

The Swami came to Ridgely Manor, Mr. Leggett's place in the Catskill Mountains, and spent some days there. At the time some of the students said. "But Swamiji, you can't go. The classes are going on." Swami turned with great dignity and answered. "Are they my classes? Yes, I will go." And he did. While he was there, he met my sister's children who were then twelve and fourteen years old. But when we came down to New York and the classes began again, he did not seem to remember them, and they, very much surprised, said. "Swami doesn't remember us." We said to them. "Wait until the class is over." While he was lecturing, he was always completely absorbed in what he was talking about. When he was through speaking, he came up and said, "Well children, how nice to see you again," showing he did remember them. They were very happy.

Perhaps it was during this period, when he was our guest in New York City, one day he came home very quiet and subdued, He did not speak for hours, and finally we said to him, "Swami! What did you do today?" And he said, "I have seen a thing today that only America can show. I was in the street car. Helen Gould sat on one side and a negro washerwoman, with her washing on her lap, on the other. No place but America can show that."

In June of that year Swami went up to Camp Percy, Christine Lake. N. H., to be the guest of Mr. Leggett at his fishing camp. We also went. There my sister's engagement to Mr. Leggett was announced, and Swami was invited to go abroad and be the witness at the wedding. While he was at the Camp, Swami would go out under those beautiful white birch trees and meditate for hours. Without telling us anything about it he made two beautiful birch bark books, written in Sanskrit and English, which he gave to my sister and me.

Then when my sister and I went to Paris to buy her trousseau, Swami went to Thousand Island Park and for six weeks gave those wonderful talks called Inspired Talks, which to me are the most beautiful words that were written, because they were given to a group of intimate disciples. They were disciples, whereas I was never anything but a friend. But that quality that he gave them! Nothing I think revealed his heart as those days did.

He came over to Paris with Mr. Leggett in August. There, my sister and I stayed at the Holland House, and the Swami and Mr. Leggett stayed at a different hotel; but we saw them every day. At that time Mr. Leggett had a courier who always called Swami 'Mon Prince!' And Swami said to him. "But I am not a prince. I am a Hindu monk." The courier answered, "You may call yourself that, but I am used to dealing with Princes, and I know one when I see one." His dignity impressed everyone. Yet, when someone once said to him, "You are so dignified, Swami", he replied, "It isn't me, it's my walk."

To Be Continue..

(Prabuddha Bharata, December 1949)


The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
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