” All are but parts of one stupendous whole,/ Whose body Nature is, and God the Soul.” – Alexander Pope
World Teacher Swami Vivekananda is still a vibrant personality and admirable divine soul to the people of East and West . He is sometimes compared with Buddha, a great incarnation of God. In his book Travel and Talk , published in 1896, the Rev. Mr. Haweis gives an account of the Parliament and makes particular mention of ” the popular Hindu Monk ” , even wrote about Swamiji’s physiognomy which has been reproduced by Swami Yogeshananda in Vedanta for East and West , I will quote here a sentence or two from it :
” Vivekananda, the popular Hindu Monk , whose physiognomy bore the most striking resemblance to the classic face of the Buddha, denounced our commercial prosperity,our bloody wars, and our religious inconsistency, declaring that at such a price the “mild Hindu” would have none of our vaunted civilization….. I consider that Vivekananda’s personality was one of the most impressive, and his speech one of the most eloquent speeches which dignified the great Congress.
However, we are going to discuss about Swamiji’s teaching to his Western students at Thousand Island Park in America. He was then in fully spiritual mood . His only work was reading, teaching and meditation. In Dutcher’s little house they were almost eleven students and with them their spiritual Guru ,Swami Vivekananda. We came to know from Ruth Ellis that they were 10 or even 12 persons . Presumably she was including Swamiji in this count . From morning to night they lived in a spiritual atmosphere. Miss Waldo wrote: ” It was a perpetual inspiration to live with a man like Swami Vivekananda. From morning to night it was ever the same, we lived in a constant atmosphere of intense spirituality.”
Though Swami Vivekananda was junior to them, only Christine was younger disciple of Swami, but he always took position of a Father. Swamiji’s conversation – his humor , his vivid story – telling, his recollection of his life in India, his flow of ideas on all subjects – was invariably entertaining, instructive, and uplifting all at once .
Swami Vivekananda taught his students in the morning and evening, sitting on a chair amidst them like an ancient Hindu monk. Even, while walking through the hilly forest he used to converse with his students. To the students, it was favourite walk behind the cottage down a hill and then a rustic path to the river. Sometimes they stopped several times, Mrs. Funke wrote to her friend, ” and sit around on the grass and listen to Swami’s talks. A bird , a flower, a butterfly will start him off and he will tell us stories from the Vedas or recite Indian poetry “.
Today, when we think that Swamiji is walking with some students and speaking about the nature and the Vedas or reciting poetry, this was a great opportunity to the 11 Western desciples and how they were lucky enough that a man like Buddha or Christ had spent lots of time with them.
Surely to walk or sit under the trees with Swamiji , to see through his eyes the sun – splashed paths , the massive grey and pink boulders with mottled with silver – green lichen, the wide river – to see this loveliness as he saw it , if only for a brief moment, was surely to have one’s mind washed clear of all cluttering thought and to taste something of the freedom in which he lived. Obviously they are taught to see God in everything – from the blade of grass to man – even in the diabolical man .
About Good and Bad in reality, his teaching was reasonable and philosophical. He was never a sentimental view of natural beauty or the world. Of this , Sister Christine wrote: Did you in your immature enthusiasm see the world as beautiful, and believe in the reality of good and the unreality of evil ? He was not long in destroying all your fine illusions. “If good is real , so is evil .” Both are different aspects of the same thing . Both good and evil are in Maya. Do not hide your head in the sand and say , ” All is good, there is no evil.” Worship the terrible even as now you worship the good. Then get beyond both… Terrible in its sternness was this teaching . But soon there came glimpses of something beyond, an unchanging reality.
Swamiji’s presence was in itself a breaking of bondage , but he delivered palpable shocks for good measure, deliberately cutting through ingrained and concealed obstructions to spiritual freedom.
Swami Vivekananda, as the world Teacher, gave space and liberty to his students during take any decision. ” If you were old or weak or helpless, I should help you . But you are quite able to jump across this brook or climb this path without help . You are as able as I am. He might seem women to be a sexless Self, or Soul , not another sex . Every woman was to him , a manifestation in one form or another of the Divine Mother !
Swami Vivekananda, as a teacher, never solved any problem of his students. Principles he laid down, but students must find the application. He encouraged no spineless dependence upon him in any form, no bid for sympathy. ” Stand upon your own feet. You have the power within you!” – he thundered. His whole purpose was – not to make things easy for us , but to teach them how to develop their innate strength. He emphasised to : ” Strength! Strength! He preached nothing but strength. That is why he preached the Upanishads.
From men he demanded manliness and viguor , and from women the corresponding quality for which there is no word. Whatever it’s, it is the opposite of self-pity , the enemy of weakness and indulgence. This attitude had had the effect of a tonic . Something long dormant was aroused and with it came strength and freedom. Swamiji always taught them the significance of and glory of renunciation . Mary Funke wrote in her memoirs:
” One afternoon when he had been telling us of the glory of renunciation, of the joy, and freedom of those of the ochre robe , he suddenly left us and in a short time he had written his ” Song of the Sannyasin “, – a very passion of sacrifice and renunciation.
There is but One – the Free , the Knower , Self !/ Without a name, without a form or stain./ In Him is Maya dreaming all this dream./ The Witness, He appears as nature, soul ./ Know thou art That, Sannyasin bold ! Say – / “Om Tat Sat , Om !”
Swamiji was always very loving to his students . And also regular to his teaching. When the students had assembled on the veranda, Swamiji would soon come from his room and sit in a big chair by his door. And then, the nights all glowing with the soft mystery of moonlight or golden starlight, would begin some of the best hours of the twenty – four. None of the students could take notes of what Swamiji said in the darkness, but only brief accounts had come down to them of those marvelously informal and varied evenings. That experience was a stupendous and long – term effects on them. Miss Waldo wrote her feelings in a line : ” None of us can ever forget the uplift, the intense spiritual life of those hallowed hours .”
Swami Vivekananda had a grand and sweet voice. In his wondrously beautiful voice, when he talked to them about spiritual life and vision, pacing up and down the short stretch of the veranda, pouring forth a perfect torrent of eloquence. That time his mind was not traveling in this reality, – his mind soaring to greater and greater heights as the hours passed.
In fact, This great teacher was ever loving, gentle father during these days with his students at Thousand Island Park. He trained and taught his Western disciples about Vedanta, Upanishads and other Indian holy scriptures. The students would meditate for a time with him. Almost all of them were to spell – bound during Swamiji’s teaching . But they could have been expressed their own feelings .
Swamiji stayed at Miss Dutcher’s cottage until the night of August 6. He held his class on that morning as usual and explained about with Cristal clarity and simplicity born of direct experience the place of the Personal God in man’s spiritual journey to the realization of his own Being. God is as real as the journey – no more, no less.