Sunday 17 September 2023

Swami Vimalananda on Swami Vivekananda - 1

BEFORE I knew Swamiji personally, I had heard much about his greatness from persons who had moved and lived with him on the closest terms of intimacy. Therefore, when it was announced in the year 1893 that he had gone over to America to represent our religion at the Chicago Parliament of Religions, I started following his movements with the closest attention and the greatest interest. I was anxiously waiting to see if his achievements would not confirm me in my very high estimate of him. I need not tell you, people of Madras, that every bit of my expectation was much more than satisfied. But till I saw him with my own eyes, the perfect satisfaction of knowing the man could not come. Till then I could not be quite free from the secret misgivings that I might be after all labouring under a delusion. So you see, gentlemen, that I did not meet Swamiji as one in any way biased against him. The throbbing interest and convincingness which attach to the glowing description of the conquest of opponents of a great man of overmastering personality does not belong to my subject. I may say, I was already a great admirer of his. But I must say at the same time that it was not too late in the day to retrace my steps and give Swamiji up as one unworthy of my love and esteem if facts were found to give the lie. Perhaps, the shock which such a disclosure would have given to my mind would be too painful; perhaps it would have cost a great drenching of the heart. But I can assure you that the instinct of moral self-preservation was yet stronger than my admiration of Swamiji, and cost how much it would, the heart could not long cling round him if reason and moral sense condemned him with one voice.

And what was the nature of the greatness I was expecting to see in Swamiji? It was not the dashing and daring spirit displayed by a heroic warrior on the battlefield, nor the fine ethereal vision and ecstasy of the poet, nor the vast erudition of a scholar, nor the dazzling intellectual flourish of the master controversialist, nor the quick penetration and the wide comprehension of the philosopher, nor the weeping heart of a true lover of humanity. It was not that I had not had enough testimony as to these qualities of head and heart being abundantly present in him, but because my conception of religion was not wide enough to include all these under it. His marvellous achievements in the West were bringing us overwhelming evidences of his wonderful intellectual powers. But either from some constitutional necessity or my extreme poverty in that direction I was always attributing the brightness of his intellect to his highly elevated religious life, and it was this religious life that I expected to see in him. My idea of religion was then confined to purity and meditation. Sitting at the feet of the holy and good disciples of Bhagavan Shri Ramakrishna, I had learnt that these two were the indispensable conditions of acquiring spirituality and are the sure marks by which a religious man can always be known. My debt of gratitude to the blessed Swamis, at whose feet I had learnt these great lessons, is too large to be repaid. Personal contact with Swamiji instead of diminishing the value of purity and meditation in my eyes, has only enhanced it. At the same time it has heightened and intensified my conception of religion by adding new elements to it. Till I came in personal contact with Swamiji my temperament had led me to expect to see in him a man of intense purity and meditative inwardness. And I need not tell you that I was not disappointed. The First sight of Swamiji, the peculiar brightness of his face, his lustrous yet soft and sweet eyes, at once carried into my heart an overwhelming sense of satisfaction that I had come to a man that like of whom I had never seen before. Then when he began to talk to us making personal inquiries and giving us words of hope and encouragement with the cordiality of one truly interested in our welfare, we felt that our hearts were being drawn closer to him. To us who were very insignificant compared with his friends and visitors who were standing or sitting ground him in large numbers, this kindness on his part filed us with great joy and gratitude. Then the wonderfully free and frank way in which he was talking to his visitors revealed to us a heart that knew nothing of guile or fear nor cared a bit for social conventionality. The transparently clear and pointed words that were shooting out of his lips like meteors gave us a peep into the keen penetration of his intellect and the breadth and profundity of his mental vision. We felt ourselves in the presence of an overpowering personality whose immensity it was not possible for us to gauge, but which was drawing us to itself as by a tie of close personal relationship. There arose on the first day of our meeting an excellent opportunity of knowing something of his real humility. I say real humility because it had nothing to do with that sense of self-abasement with its external manifestation of facial contortions which so often pass for humility. It was self-effacement and was not therefore without the charming dignity of self-respect. A question from one of the visitors as to why Swamiji's lecture on his Master delivered in America had not seen the light of day, brought the bold confession: "I did not allow it to be published as I had done injustice to my Master. My Master never condemned anything or anybody. But while I was speaking of him I criticized the people of America for their dollar-worshipping spirit. That day I learnt the lesson that I am not yet fit to talk of him." These words were really startling to us for more than one reason. Here was a man who was being idolized, nay actually worshipped by so many, and this man in their very presence confessing his inability to represent his guru! "What an unpretentious man is before us", said we to ourselves. "What a wonderful man must his guru have been to occupy such a high place in the heart of this great man!"

To Be Continue..

(Source : Vedanta Kesari, January-February 1923)

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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