The Daily Northwestern, Oshkosh, Saturday, April 11, 1896
A Woman Monk.
Brooklyn has a new attraction - a woman who is a monk. She is French, about 50 years old, with short, gray hair, a broad masculine face end a large head. She is Swami Ahhayananda or "The Monk of Fearless Bliss." Her belief and teachings are the same as those of the Swami Vivekananda and the famous Hindoo represents to her the highest earthly perfection. She has studied the Vedas for twenty-five years and last summer she took the monkish vows of poverty and celibacy and intends to devote her life to spreading the philosophy. She renounced all connection with her former life and refuses to remember her nationality and creed. She does not believe in rites and ceremonies, has no property and makes a point of preaching that work is necessary and honorable. Her costume is most striking. It is the one worn by her order in India and consists of bright mustard-color cashmere caught in at the waist with a soft silk sash of the same color. Her tie and every other portion of her costume is of this color, which signifies purification. She wears around her neck a string of yellow beads, which she lays aside when engaged in lecturing for the Swami. She spends a good deal of time in talking to and haranguing women, claiming that this is the only way to get a new religion started.— New York Paper
The Evening News
December 02, 1897
The Steubenville Herald
Friday, December 10, 1897
SHE'S A WOMAN MONK
SWAMI ABHAYANANDA AND HER NEW RELIGIOUS ORDER.
A Fair Mystic Pitches Her Tent In Chicago and Sets Out to Organize the Adwaita Society on the Foundation of Universal Love
Do you know what a swami is? Chicago people do. They have one "In their midst." A swami is in the Hindoo language a teacher. Chicago's teacher is known at the Swami Ahbayananda. She— (for this Swami is of the weaker sex—claims to be the only woman monk in the world. She is at the head of the Adwaita society, an order of Brahman origin. The Chicago branch is the only one in America. It consists of about 100 members. Of this number only13however, are full fledged members. The rest are mildly enthusiastic followers of the Swami who may some day dip deep enough into the faith to take a more active part.
The Swami Abhaynnanda is a most picturesque personage even for a metropolis like Chicago. She is a tall, graceful, but somewhat masculine woman, with striking features framed in an aureole of grayish white hair cut short. She wears straight cut robe of yellowish brown, with a brown girdle. All monks wear a robe and girdle, and the swami is no whit less a monk because she is a woman. She has had little success in trying to persuade her Chicago disciples to don the robe, but at last accounts two of her followers have put on the garb of the order.
Paris was the birthplace of the swami. But for a number of years she lived in New York, where she maintained herself by teaching the various philosophies which had been a part of her education. Then she met the Brahman teacher Swami Vivekananda. became devoted to the religion which he preached and settled in Chicago for the purpose of founding in that city a branch of the order having been ordained a monk of the forest brethren.
She has taken vows of poverty and on no consideration will receive money. At first she insisted upon being homeless like her oriental brethren, but her followers decided that such an existence in Chicago was wholly unpractical so they filled up several small rooms for her use in the house where the society holds its meetings. These quarters have been simply but comfortably furnished, and there the swami lives subsisting on what ever food is brought to her and not going out into the highways like the eastern " beggars of the
yellow bowl, " for her meals. It is quite possible that if she should attempt to carry out all the traditions of her fellow monks she would be arrested for vagrancy.
When the question "What do you teach?" was put to the swami, the fire of enthusiasm showed from her knire, dark eyes she replied.
"Brahmanism and the Vedantic philosophy I believe love and teach the universal not the separate in all things religious and secular, and so I live all religions and all peoples. But I wish not to have any faith confounded with theosophy or Buddhism. The Vedanta is the system which I revere and teach. 1 am a monk of a Brahmin order, and it is love, love to all things and manifestations which I desire to spread. I tell my children: "Love all things, never mind how or why. Love all things, all beings. Be not separate, but universal."
Quite a comprehensive, but somewhat indefinite creed, you see still she begs that it will some day become a universal one. She says, that it is a religion for ail peoples and all nations, and that, when the order has extended to all parts of the country, as she hopes it will, there will be erected in Chicago a great white temple of the peculiar form prescribed for such buildings. This projected temple, by the way is to be built with one half circular, lto represent the feminine character and the other half rectangular, the angles typifying masculine trait.
The name Adwaita, which has been given to the initial branch of the order means "oneness" or "universal.'' The services, which are held every Sunday consist of silent meditation, prayers, music and an address by the woman monk. Although the swami herself refuses to receive any money, her "children" as she calls her followers, are allowed to collect funds for the building of the new temple which she hopes will be erected within a year hence. The Adwaita society has neither officers nor by laws.
The order of which this Chicago society is the first branch to be established in America is the oldest in the world, she claims. It is it "forest order,'' and its distinguishing color is the yellow brown of burned ocher. It consists of four degrees. These are the Bramachari, or student class the Grihas, or householder class, the Vanaprastha whose members live the life of renunciation, and the Sannyasin or mendicant degree to which the Swami Abhayananda herself belongs.
Her reasons for selecting Chicago as her held for operation are interesting, "Chicago, '' she says, "seems to me a much better field than New York. If ever there was a place where universal love and consideration needed to be preached and practiced it is Chicago. Then, too, the people of Chicago are ready and eager for new truths or old truths in new form, and every one is sure of at least a fair hearing there. Later when my child, the Adwaita society, is flourishing and strong, I may visit other cities, but for the present I shall remain in Chicago. It will need all my time and attention for some time to ci me. I imagine and beyond this I have no plans for the future. I am working now for spirituality and universal love and I expect to do so just as long as I am allowed to teach in this present body."