A few of new findings in no particular order... may interest students of Vivekananda's life...
Marie Louise Burke the "Paragon" of Vivekananda researchers, wrote of the Swami's visit to Thousand Island Park in the Summer of 1895, in Volume three of her New Discoveries: "Christina Greenstidel and Mrs. Mary Funke were the last to arrive bringing the number of known disciples up to eleven. But in her 'Introductory Narrative' to her Inspired Talks, Miss Waldo writes, 'By a singular coincidence just twelve students followed the Swami to Thousand Island Park.' At the date of this writing his or her identity is unknown."
Eleven of the names were already known to biographers and the 12th name was a mystery. The 12 are: Stella Campbell, Ellen Waldo, Ruth Ellis, Dr Wight, Landsberg, Marie Louise, Miss Dutcher, Walter and Frances Goodyear, Chirstine Greenstidel, Mary Funke, and ... Ethel Howe. More on her later
Yet another new discovery- at least for us- is to learn of the connection between Emma Calve and Henri Jules-Bois. Calve was the last host for Swami in the West in late 1900, a tour through east Europe to Egypt, Bois, along with Josephine MaCleod, and the former Pere Hyacinth and his wife also toured with them.
It seems that Calves and the writer Bois were well known among the then thriving Parisian esoteric scene as paramours. Bois who was deeply interested in magic and mysticism wrote a book "Satanism and Magic" which was banned by the Catholic Church. Calve apparently shared his fascination in the occult and employed some of the symbolic elements of withcraft, along with a dose of the lascivious and wanton into her role as Carmen.
More than 20 newly discovered Newspaper reports have been recently re-discovered, and, as far as we know, have never been published in connection with the Swami's life...
One of the fascinating new discoveries in this essay published shortly after the Swami’s demise, is that on Wednesday July 2 during his last talk with Nivedita he said “After Ramakrishna I follow Vidyasagar.” A strong endorsement of the great moral leader of Bengal ….
The National Significance of the Swami Vivekananda's Life and Work.
He passed, when the laurels of his first achievements were yet green. He passed, when new and greater calls were ringing in his ears. Quietly, in the beautiful home of his illness, the intervening years with some few breaks, went by amongst plants and animals, unostentatiously training the disciples who gathered round him, silently ignoring the great fame that had shone upon his name. Man-making was his own stern brief summary of the work that was worth doing. And laboriously, unflaggingly, day after day, he set himself
124 SISTER NIVEDITA
to man-making playing the part of Guru, of father, even of schoolmaster, by turns. The very afternoon of the day he left us, had he not spent three hours in giving a Sanskrit lesson on the Vedas ?
External success and leadership were nothing to such a man. During his years in the West, he made rich and powerful friends, who would gladly have retained him in their midst. But for him, the Occident, with all its luxuries, had no charms. To him, the garb of a beggar, the lanes of Calcutta , and the disabilities of his own people, were more dear than all the glory of the foreigner, and detaining hands had to loose their hold of one who passed ever onward toward the East.
What was that the West heard in him, leading so
many to hail and cherish his name as that of one of
the greatest religious teachers of the world ? He made
no personal claim. He told no personal story. One
whom he knew and trusted long had never heard that
he held any position of distinction amongst his Guru-
bhais. He made no attempt to popularise with strangers any single form of creed, whether of God or
Guru. Rather, through him the mighty torrent of
Hinduism poured forth its cooling waters upon the
intellectual and spiritual worlds, fresh from its secret
sources in Himalayan snows. A witness to the vast
religious culture of Indian homes and holy men he
could never cease to be. Yet he quoted nothing but
the Upanishadas. He taught nothing but the Vedanta. And men trembled, for they heard the voice for the first time of the religious teacher who feared not Truth. Do we not all know the song that tells of Siva as he passes along the roadside, "Some say He is mad. Some say He is the Devil. Some say—don't you know ?—He is the Lord Himself!"? Even so India is familiar with the thought that every great personality is the meeting-place and reconciliation of opposing ideals. To his disciples, Vivekananda will ever remain the arch-type of the Sannyasin. Burning renunciation was chief of all the inspirations that spoke to us through him. " Let me die a true Sannyasin as my Master did/' he exclaimed once, passionately, "heedless of money, of women, and of fame ! And of these the most insidious is the love of fame !" Yet the self same destiny that filled him with this burning thirst of intense vairagyam embodied in him also the ideal householder—full of the yearning to protect and save, eager to learn and teach the use of materials, reaching out towards the reorganisation and re-ordering of life. In this respect, indeed, he belonged to the race of Benedict and Bernard, of Robert de Citcaux and Loyola. It may be said that just as in Francis of Assissi, the yellow robe of the Indian Sannyasin gleams for a moment in the history of the Catholic Church, so in Vivekananda the great saint, abbots of Western monas-ticism are born anew in the East.
Similarly, he was at once a sublime expression of superconscious religion and one of the greatest patriots ever born. He lived at a moment of national disintegration, and he was fearless of the new. He lived when men were abandoning their inheritance, and he was an ardent worshipper of the old. In him the national destiny fulfilled itself, that a new wave of consciousness should bs inaugurated always in the leaders of the Faith. In such a man it may be that we possess the whole Veda of the future. We must remember however, that the moment has not come for gauging the religious significance of Vivekananda. Religion is living seed, and his sowing is but over. The time of his harvest is not yet.
But death actually gives the Patriot to his country. When the master has passed away from the midst of his disciples, when the murraers of his critics are all hushed at the burning-ghat, then the great voice that spoke of freedom rings out unchallenged and whole nations answer as one man. Here was a mind that had had unique opportunities of observing the people of many countries intimately. East and West he had seen and been received by the high and low alike. His brilliant intellect had never failed to gauge what it saw. " America will solve the problems of the Sudra; but through what awful turmoil !" he said many times. On a second visit, however, he felt tempted to change his mind, seeing the greed of wealth and the lust of
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 127
oppression in the West, and comparing these with the calm dignity and ethical stability of the old Asiatic solutions formulated by China many centuries ago. His great acumen was yoked toa marvellous humanity. Never had we dreamt of such a gospel of hope for the Negro as that with which he rounded on an American gentleman who spoke of the African races with contempt. And when, in the Southern States he was occasionally taken for " a coloured man, " and turned away from some door as such (a mistake that was always atoned for as soon as discovered by the lavish hospitality of the most responsible families of the place), he was never known to deny the imputation. " Would it not have been refusing my brother? he said simply when he was asked the reason of this silence.
To him each race had its own greatness and shone in the light of that central quality. There was no Europe without the Turk, no Egypt without the development of the people of the soil. England had grasped the secret of obedience with self-respect. To speak of any patriotism in the same breath with Japan 's was sacrilege.
W7hat then was the prophecy that Vivekananda left to his own people ? With what national significance has he filled that gerrua mantle that he dropped behind him in his passing ? Is it for us perhaps to lift the yellow rags upon our flagpole, and carry them forward
as our banner ? Assuredly—For here was a man who never dreamt of failure. Here was a man who spoke of naught but strength. Supremely free from sentimentality, supremely defiant of all authority (are not missionary slanders still ringing in our ears ? Are not some of them to be accepted with fresh accessions of pride ?) he refused to meet any foreigner save as the master. "The Swami's great genius lies in his dignity/' said an Englishman who knew him well, " it is nothing short of royal! " He had grasped the great fact that the East must come to the West, not as a sycophant, not as a servant, but as Guru and teacher, and never did he lower the flag of his personal ascendancy. " Let Europeans lead us in Religion !" he would say, with a scorn too deep to be anything but merry. " I have never spoken of revenge/' he said once. " I have always spoken of strength. Do we dream of revenging ourselves on this drop of sea-spray ? But it is a great thing to a mosquito !"
To him, nothing Indian required apology. Did anything seem, to the pseudo-refinement of the alien, barbarous or crude ? Without denying, without minimising anything, his colossal energy was immediately concentrated on the vindication of that particular point, and the unfortunate critic was tossed backwards and forwards on the horns of his own argument. One such instance occured when an Englishman on board-ship asked him some sneering question about the
Puranas, and never can any who were present forget how he was pulverised, by a reply that made the Hindu Puranas, compare favourably with the Christian Gospels, but planted the Vedas and Upani-shads high up beyond the reach of any rival. There was no friend that he would not sacrifice without mercy at such a moment in the name of National Defence. Such an attitude was not, perhaps, always reasonable. It was often indeed frankly unpleasant. But it was superb in the manliness that even enemies must admire. To Vivekananda, again, everything Indian was absolutely and equally sacred,—"This land to which must come all souls wending their way Godward 1 ;' his religious consciousness tenderly phrased it. At Chicago, any Indian man attending the Great World Bazaar, rich or poor, high or low, Hindu, Muham-medan, Parsi, what not might at any moment be brought by him to his hosts for hospitality and entertainment and they well knew that any failure of kindness on their part to the least of these would immediately have cost them his presence.
He was himself the exponent of Hinduism, but finding another Indian religionist struggling with ihe difficulty of presenting his case, he sat down and wrote his speech for him, making a better story for his friend's faith than its own adherent could have done !
He took infinite pains to teach European disciples
to eat with their fingers, and perform the ordinary simple acts of Hindu life. " Remember, if you love India at all, you must love her as she is, not as you might wish her to become" he used to say. And it was this great firmness of his, standing like a rock for what actually was, that did more than any other single fact, perhaps, to open the eyes of those aliens who loved him to the beauty and strength of that ancient poem,— the common life of the common Indian people. For his own part, he was too free from the desire for approbation to make a single concession to new-fangled ways. The best of every land had been offered him, but it left him still the simple Hindu of the old style, too proud of his simplicity to find any need of change. "After Ramakrishna, I follow Vidyasagar ! " he exclaimed, only two days before his death, and out came the oft-repeated story of the wooden sandals coming pitter patter with the chudder and dhoti, into the Viceregal Council Chamber, and the surprised " But if you didn't want me, why did you ask me to come ?" of the old Pundit, when they remonstrated.
Such points, however, are only interesting as personal characteristics. Of a deeper importance is the question as to the conviction that spoke through them. What was this ? Whether did it tend ? His whole life was a search for the common basis of Hinduism. To his sound judgment the idea that two pice postage, cheap travel, and a common language of affairs could
create a national unity, was obviously childish and superficial. These things could only be made to serve old India 's turn if she already possessed a deep organic unity of which they might conveniently become an expression. Was such a unity existent or not ? For something like eight years he wandered about the land changing his name at every village, learning of every one he met, gaining a vision as accurate and minute as it was profound and general. It was this great quest that overshadowed him with its certainty when, at the Parliament of Religions, he stood before the West and proved that Hinduism converged upon a single imperative of perfect freedom so completely as to be fully capable of intellectual aggression as any other faith.
It never occurred to him that his own people were in any respect less than the equals of any other nation whatsoever. Being well aware that religion was their national expression, he was also aware that the strength which they might display in that sphere, would be followed before long, by every other conceivable form of strength.
As a profound student of caste,—his conversation teemed with its unexpected particulars and paradoxes I —he found the key to Indian unity in its exclusive-ness. Mahommedans were but a single caste of the nation. Christians another, Parsis another, and so on I It was true that of all these (with the partial exception of the last), non-belief in caste was a caste distinction.
But then, the same was true of the Brahmo Samaj and other modern sects of Hinduism. Behind all alike stood the great common facts of one soil; one beautiful old routine of ancestral civilisation ; and the overwhelming necessities that must inevitably lead at last to common loves and common hates.
But he had learnt, not only the hopes and ideals of every sect and group of the Indian people, but their memories also. A child of the Hindu quarter of Calcutta, returned to live by the Ganges-side, one would have supposed from his enthusiasm that he had been born, now in the Punjab, again in the Himalayas, at a third moment in Rajputana, or elsewhere. The songs of Guru Nanak alternated with those of Meera Bai and Thana Sena on his lips. Stories of Prithvi Rai and Delhi jostled against those of Cheetore and Pratab Singh, Siva and Uma, Radha and Krishna , Sita-Ram and Buddha. Each mighty drama lived in a marvellous actuality, when he was the player. His whole heart and soul was a burning epic of the country, touched to an overflow of mystic passion by her very name.
Seated in his retreat at Belur, Vivekananda received visits and communications from all quarters. The vast surface might be silent, but deep in the heart of India , the Swami was never forgotten. None could afford, still fewer wished, to ignore him. No hope but was spoken into his ear,—no woe but he knew it,
and strove to comfort or to rouse. Thus, as always in the case of a religious leader the India that he saw, presented a spectacle strangely unlike that visible to any other eye. For he held in his hands the thread of all that was fundamental, organic, vital; he knew the secret springs of life; he understood with what word to touch the heart of millions. And he had gathered from all this knowledge a clear and certain hope.
Let others blunder as they might. To him, the country was young, the Indian vernaculars still unformed, flexible, the national energy unexploited. The India of his dreams was in the future. The new phase of consciousness initiated to-day through pain and suffering was to be but the first step in a long evolution. To him his country's hope was in herself. Never in the alien. True, his great heart embraced the alien's need, sounding a universal promise to the world. But he never sought for help, or begged assistance. He never leaned on any, what might be done, it was the doer's privilege to do, not the recipient's to accept. He had neither fears nor hopes from without. To reassert that which was India 's essential self, and leave the great stream of the national life, strong in a fresh self-confidence and vigour, to find its own way to the ocean, this was the meaning of his sannyas. For his was pre-eminently the sannyas of the greater service. To him, India was induistic, Aryan, Asiatic. Her youth might make their own experiments in modern luxury. Had they not the right ? Would they not return ? But the great deeps of her being were moral, austere and spiritual. A people who could embrace death by the Ganges-side were not long to be distracted by the glamour of mere mechanical power.
Buddha had preached renunciation, and in two centuries India had become an Empire. Let her but once more feel the great pulse through all her veins, and no power on earth would stand before her newly awakened energy. Only, it would be in her own life that she would find life, not in imitation ; from her own proper past and environment that she would draw inspiration, not from the foreigner. For he who thinks himself weak is weak : he who believes that he is strong is already invincible. And so for his nation, as for every individual, Vivekananda had but one word, one constantly reiterated message :—
" Awake ! Arise ! Struggle on.
And stop not till the
Goal is reached !"—The Hindu.
- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.