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Prophets of the new India

 
 


Romain Rolland

PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
 
 
OP 1HE 
NEW INDIA 
 
 
 
BY 
 
ROMAIN ROLLAND 
 
TRANSLATED BY 
 
E. F. MALCOLM-SMITH 
 
 
 
 
CASSELL AND COMPANY LTD. 
LONDON, TO* MELBOURNE AND SYDNEY 
 
 
 
TRANSLATOR'S NOTE 
 
translation of this work by Romain Rolland was 
undertaken in the first instance for the Indian 
Edition, which is being published by the Advaita Ashrama, 
Mayavati, Himalayas, for circulation in India, Ceylon and 
the Federated Malay States. The present Edition is 
substantially the same as the Indian Edition so far as the 
text is concerned, but it contains additional notes for the 
greater enlightenment of Western readers. 
 
The Translator desires to express her sense of the impos- 
sibility of doing justice to the exquisite style of the Author's 
French. At the Author's request she has, therefore, sought 
to give as literal a translation of his thought as possible, 
and style has been a secondary consideration. The bulk 
of the text has been submitted to the Author's sister, to 
whom the work is dedicated, and to Swami Ashokananda, 
the Indian Editor, for purposes of correction before being 
cast in its final form. The Translator desires to express 
publicly her deep sense of obligation to those two helpers 
for their unfailing and unwearied assistance. 
 
Too little is known of Indian thought in the West. May 
others share the experience of the Translator, and discover 
through these pages that the great thinkers of the earth 
are essentially brothers. Conditions may differ widely at 
the foot or up the slopes of the mountains, but above are 
" the shining tablelands, to which our God Himself is moon 
and sun." From those pure heights the divisions that part 
mankind are no longer discernible. 
 
E. F. M.-S. 
AHMEDABAD, 
INDIA, 
February, 1930. 
 
 
 
AUTHOR'S PREFACE 
 
IN writing this book I have had constant recourse to 
the advice of the Ramakrishna Mission, which has 
been kind enough to place all the requisite documents at 
my disposal. In particular I owe a great deal to the present 
venerable head of the Belur Math and Superior of the Order, 
Swami Shivananda, who has been good enough to give me 
his precious personal memories of the Master ; to his pious 
direct disciple and Evangelist, Mahendra Nath Gupta, 
whose name is modestly concealed behind the simple initial 
M ; to the young and religious savant, Boshi Sen, a disciple 
of Sir J. C. Bose and a devotee of Vivekananda, who with 
her permission communicated to me the unpublished 
Memoirs of Sister Christine, she who with Sister Nivedita 
was the most intimate of Vivekananda's Western disciples ; 
to Miss Josephine MacLeod, who was an active and devoted 
friend of the great Swami ; above all to the editor of the 
Review, Prabuddha Bharata, Swami Ashokananda, who 
has never wearied of my unwearied questions, but has 
answered them with the most precise erudition. It was he 
who gave me the most complete information with regard 
to the actual position of the Ramakrishna Mission. 
 
I must also express my gratitude to Mr. Dhan Gopal 
Mukerji, who first revealed Ramakrishna's existence to me, 
and to my faithful friead, Dr. Kalidas Nag, who has more 
than once advised and instructed me. 
 
May I have made the best use of so many excellent guides 
for the service of the India which is dear to us and of the 
human Spirit ! 
 
R. R. 
December, 1928. 
 
 
 
vu 
 
 
 
CONTENTS 
 
PAGE 
 
To Mv EASTERN READERS xi 
 
To MY WESTERN READERS ...... xiii 
 
BOOK I 
 
RAMAKRISHNA 
PRELUDE ........ 3 
 
I THE GOSPEL OF CHILDHOOD ..... 7 
 
II KALI THE MOTHER ....... 13 
 
III THE Two GUIDES TO KNOWLEDGE ; THE BHARAVI 
 
BRAHAMI AND TOTAPURI 25 
 
IV IDENTITY WITH THE ABSOLUTE .... 41 
V THE RETURN TO MAN ...... 53 
 
VI THE BUILDERS OF UNITY, RAM MOHUN ROY, DEVEN- 
 
DRANATH TAGORE, KESHAB CHUNDER SEN, DAYAN- 
ANDA ........ 67 
 
VII RAMAKRISHNA AND THE KING-SHEPHERDS OF INDIA . 112 
 
VIII THE CALL OF THE DISCIPLES 132 
 
IX THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN . . . 144 
X NAREN, THE BELOVED DISCIPLE . . . .170 
 
XI THE SWAN SONG 193 
 
XII THE RIVER RE-ENTERS THE SEA .... 201 
 
EPILOGUE TO BOOK I 217 
 
RAMAKRISHNA BIBLIOGRAPHY ..... 223 
 
ICONOGRAPHY ........ 227 
 
BOOK II 
VIVEKANANDA 
 
PART I 
THE LIFE OF VIVEKANANDA 
 
PRELUDE 231 
 
I THE PARIVRAJAKA : THE CALL OF THE EARTH TO THB 
 
SOUL 235 
 
ix 
 
 
 
CONTENTS 
 
PAGE 
 
II THE PILGRIM OF INDIA . . . ... .246 
 
III THE GREAT JOURNEY TO THE WEST AND THE PAR- 
 
LIAMENT OF RELIGIONS ..... 256 
 
IV AMERICA AT THE TIME OF VIVBKANANDA'S FIRST 
 
VISIT. THE ANGLO-SAXON FORERUNNERS OF THE 
SPIRIT OF ASIA : EMERSON, THOREAU, WALT 
 
WHITMAN 267 
 
V THE PREACHING IN AMERICA ..... 286 
 
VI THE MEETING OF INDIA AND EUROPE . . . 299 
VII THE RETURN TO INDIA . . . . . .314 
 
VIII THE FOUNDING OF THE RAMAKRISHNA MISSION. . 325 
 
IX THE SECOND JOURNEY TO THE WEST . . .351 
 
X THE DEPARTURE 358 
 
PART II 
 
THE UNIVERSAL GOSPEL OF VIVEKANANDA 
 
I MAYA AND THE MARCH TOWARDS FREEDOM . . 369 
 
II THE GREAT PATHS (THE YOGAS) .... 380 
 
1. Karma-yoga ....... 385 
 
2. Bhakti-yoga 395 
 
3. Raja-yoga 405 
 
4. Jnana-yoga ....... 418 
 
III SCIENCE, THE UNIVERSAL RELIGION . . . 437 
 
IV CIVITAS DEI : THE CITY OF MANKIND . . . 457 
 
V CAVE CANEM ! 469 
 
CONCLUSION ........ 481 
 
PART III 
 
I THE RAMAKRISHNA MATH AND MISSION . . . 485 
II THE AWAKENING OF INDIA AFTER VIVEKANANDA, 
 
RABINDRANATH TAGORE AND AUROBINDO GHOSE. 497 
 
APPENDICES : c 
 
I CONCERNING MYSTIC INTROVERSION AND ITS SCIENTIFIC 
 
VALUE FOR THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE REAL . 509 
II ON THE HELLENIC-CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM OF THE FIRST 
CENTURIES, AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO HINDU 
MYSTICISM : PLOTINUS OF ALEXANDRIA AND DENIS 
THE AREOPAGITE 520 
 
 
 
TO MY EASTERN READERS 
 
" Greeting to the feet of the Jnanin ! Greeting to the feet of 
the Bhakta ! Greeting to the devout who believe in the formless 
God I Greeting to those who believe in a God with form I Greet- 
ing to the men of old who knew Brahman 1 Greeting to the modern 
knowers of Truth. ..." 
 
(Ramakrishna, October 28, 1882.) 
 
I MUST beg my Indian readers to view with indulgence 
the mistakes I may have made. In spite of all the 
enthusiasm I have brought to my task, it is impossible for 
a man of the West to interpret men of Asia with their 
thousand years' experience of thought ; for such an inter- 
pretation must often be erroneous. The only thing to 
which I can testify is the sincerity which has led me to 
make a pious attempt to enter into all forms of life. 
 
At the same time I must confess that I have not abdicated 
one iota of my free judgment as a man of the West. I 
respect the faith of all and very often I love it. But I never 
subscribe to it. Ramakrishna lies very near to my heart 
because I see in him a man and not an " Incarnation/' as 
he appears to his disciples. In accordance with the Vedan- 
tists I do not need to enclose God within the bounds of a 
privileged man in order to admit that the Divine dwells 
within the soul and that the soul dwells in everything 
that Atman is Brahman : although it knows it not ; that 
view is a form of nationalism of spirit and I cannot accept 
it. I see God in all that exists. I see Him ,as completely 
in the least fragment as in the fthole Cosmos. There is no 
difference of essence. And power is universally infinite ; 
that which lies hidden in an atom, if one only knew it, 
could blow up a whole world. The only difference is that 
it is more or less concentrated in the heart of a conscience, 
 
1 This book is to appear in India and Europe at the same time. 
 
Xi 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
in an ego, or in a unit of energy, an ion. The very greatest 
of men is only a clearer reflection of the Sun which gleams 
in each drop of dew. 
 
That is why I can never make that sacred gulf so pleasing 
to the devout, between the heroes of the soul and the 
thousands of their obscure companions past and present. 
And neither more nor less than I isolate Christ and Buddha, 
do I isolate Ramakrishna and Vivekananda from the great 
army of the Spirit marching on in their own time. I shall 
try in the course of this book to do justice to those person- 
alities of genius, who during the last century have sprung 
up in reawakened India, reviving the ancient energies of 
their country and bringing about a springtime of thought 
within her borders. The work of each one was creative 
and each one collected round him a band of faithful souls 
who formed themselves into a church and unconsciously 
looked upon that church as a temple of the one or of the 
greatest God. 
 
At this distance from their differences I refuse to see the 
dust of battle ; at this distance the hedges between the 
fields melt into an immense expanse. I can only see the 
same river, a majestic " chemin qui marchc " in the words 
of our Pascal. And it is because Ramakrishna more fully 
than any other man not only conceived, but realized in 
himself the total Unity of this river of God, open to all 
rivers and all streams, that I have given him my love ; 
and I have drawn a little of his sacred water to slake the 
great thirst of the world. 
 
But I shall not remain leaning at the edge of the river. 
I shall continue my march with the stream right to the sea. 
Leaving behind at each winding of the river where death 
has cried " Halt I " to one of qur leaders the kneeling 
company of the faithful, I shall go with the stream and 
pay homage to it from the source to the estuary. Holy is 
the source, holy is the course, holy is the estuary. And 
we shall embrace within the river and its tributaries small . 
and great and in the Ocean itself the whole moving mass 
of the living God. 
 
R. R. 
 
VlLLENEUVE, 
 
Christmas, 1928. 
 
xii 
 
 
 
MY WESTERN READERS 
 
 
 
I HAVE dedicated my whole life to the reconciliation of 
mankind. I have striven to bring it about among the 
peoples of Europe, especially between those two great 
Western peoples who are brethren and yet enemies. For 
the last ten years I have been attempting the same task 
for the West and the East. I also desire to reconcile, if it 
is possible, the two antithetical forms of spirit for which 
the West and the East are wrongly supposed to stand 
reason and faith or perhaps it would be more accurate to 
say, the diverse forms of reason and of faith ; for the West 
and the East share them both almost equally although few 
suspect it. 
 
In our days an absurd separation has been made between 
these two halves of the soul, and it is presumed that they 
are incompatible. The only incompatibility lies in the 
narrowness of view which those who erroneously claim to 
be their representatives share in common. 
 
On the one hand, those who call themselves religious shut 
themselves up within the four walls of their chapel and not 
only refuse to come out (as they have a right to do) but 
they would deny to all outside those four walls the right 
to live, if they could. On the other hand, the freethinkers, 
who are for the most part without any religious sense at 
all (as they have a rigfet to be), too often consider it their 
mission in life to fight against religious souls and in turn 
deny their right to exist. The result is the futile spectacle 
of a systematic attempt to destroy religion on the part of 
men who do not perceive that they are attacking something 
which they do not understand. A discussion of religion 
based solely on historical or pseudo-historical texts, rendered 
sterile by time and covered with lichen, is of no avail. As 
well explain the fact of inner psychological life by the 
dissection of the physical organs through which it flows. 
 
xiii 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
The confusion created by our rationalists be.tween the out- 
ward expression and the power of thought seems to me as 
illusory as the confusion common to the religions of past 
ages of identifying magic powers with the words, the syllables 
or the letters whereby they are expressed. 
 
The first qualification for knowing, judging, and if desir- 
able condemning a religion or religions, is to have made 
experiments for oneself in the fact of religious consciousness. 
Even those who have followed a religious vocation are not 
all qualified to speak on the subject ; for, if they are sincere, 
they will recognize that the fact of religious consciousness 
and the profession of religion are two different things. 
Many very honourable priests are believers by obedience 
or from interested or indolent motives, and have either 
never felt the need of religious experience or have shrunk 
from gaining it because they lack sufficient strength of 
character. As against these may be set many souls who 
are, or who believe they are, free from all religious belief, 
but who in reality live immersed in a state of super-rational 
consciousness, which they term Socialism, Communism, 
Humanitarianism, Nationalism and even Rationalism. It 
is the quality of thought and not its object which determines 
its source and allows us to decide whether or not it emanates 
from religion. If it turns fearlessly towards the search for 
truth at all costs with single-minded sincerity prepared for 
any sacrifice, I should call it religious ; for it presupposes 
faith in an end to human effort higher than the life of the 
individual, at times higher than the life of existing society, 
and even higher than the life of humanity as a whole. 
Scepticism itself when it proceeds from vigorous natures 
true to the core, when it is an expression of strength and 
not of weakness, joins in the marcji of the Grand Army of 
the religious Soul. 
 
On the other hand, thousands of cowardly believers, 
clerical and lay, within the churches have no right to 
wear the colours of religion. They do not believe because 
they choose to believe, but wallow in the stable where 
they were born in front of mangers full of the grain of 
comfortable beliefs upon which all they have to do is to 
ruminate. 
 
The tragic words used of Christ that He will be in agony 
 
xiv 
 
 
 
TO MY WESTERN READERS 
 
to the end of .the world 1 are well known. I myself do 
not believe in one personal God, least of all in a God of 
Sorrow only. But I believe that in all that exists, including 
joy and sorrow and with them all forms of life, in mankind, 
and in men and in the Universe, the only God is He who is 
a perpetual birth. The Creation takes place anew every 
instant. Religion is never accomplished. It is a ceaseless 
action and the will to strive the outpouring of a spring, 
never a stagnant pond. 
 
I belong to a land of rivers. I love them as if they were 
living creatures, and I understand why my ancestors offered 
them oblations of wine and milk. Now of all rivers the 
most sacred is that which gushes out eternally from the 
depths of the soul, from its rocks and sands and glaciers. 
Therein lies primeval Force and that is what I call religion. 
Everything belongs to this river of the Soul, flowing from 
the dark unplumbed reservoir of our being down the inevit- 
able slope to the Ocean of the conscious, realized and 
mastered Being. And just as the water condenses and rises 
in vapour from the sea to the clouds of the sky to fill again 
the reservoir of the rivers, the cycles of creation proceed 
in uninterrupted succession. From the source to the sea, 
from the sea to the source everything consists of the same 
Energy, of the Being without beginning and without end. 
It matters not to me whether the Being be called God (and 
which God ?) or Force (and what Force ?). It may equally 
be called Matter, but what manner of matter is it when it 
includes the forces of the Spirit ? Words, words, nothing 
but words ! Unity, living and not abstract, is the essence 
of it all. And it is that which I adore, and it is that which 
the great believers and the great agnostics, who carry it 
 
within them consciously or unconsciously, alike adore. 
* * * 
 
To her, to the Great Goddess, the invisible, the immanent, 
 
who gathers in her golden arms the multiform, multicoloured 
 
sheaf of polyphony to Unity I dedicate this new work. 
 
1% r&v dlaytg&rrwv xcMforrp ' 
 
 
 
1 Pascal: Penstts* Le mysttrt d* Jtsus ; " J6sus sera en agonie 
jusqu'a la fin du monde : il ne faut pas dormir pendant ce temps-la." 
 
1 " The moot beautiful harmony, composed of discords/' (Hera- 
clitus of Ephesus.) 
 
XV b 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
For a century in new India Unity has been the target for 
the arrows of all archers. Fiery personalities throughout 
this century have sprung from her sacred earth, a veritable 
Ganges of peoples and thought. Whatever may be the 
differences between them their goal is ever the same 
human unity through God. And through all the changes of 
workmen Unity itself has expanded and gained in precision. 
 
From first to last this great movement has been one of 
co-operation on a footing of complete equality between the 
West and the East, between the powers of reason and those 
not of faith in the sense of blind acceptance, a sense it 
has gained in servile ages among exhausted races but of 
vital and penetrating intuition : the eye in the forehead of 
the Cyclops which completes but does not cancel the other 
two. 
 
From this magnificent procession of spiritual heroes whom 
we shall survey later 8 I have chosen two men, who have 
won my regard because with incomparable charm and power 
they have realized this splendid symphony of the Universal 
Soul. They are, if one may say so, its Mozart and its 
Beethoven Pater Seraphicus and Jove the Thunderer 
Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. - 
 
The subject of this book is threefold and yet one. It 
comprises the story of two extraordinary lives one half 
legendary, the other a veritable epic unfolded before us 
in our own time, and the account of a lofty system of thought, 
at once religious and philosophic, moral and social, with its 
message for modern humanity from the depths of India's 
past. 
 
Although (as you will see for yourselves) the pathetic 
interest, the charming poetry, the grace and Homeric 
grandeur of these two lives are sufficient to explain why I 
have spent two years of my own in exploring and tracing 
their course in order to show them to you, it was not the 
curiosity of an explorer tjiat prompted me to undertake 
the journey. 
 
1 See Chapter VI of this volume the Builders of Unity. (Ram 
Mohun Roy, Devendranath Tagore, Keshab Chunder Sen, Daya- 
nanda.) Cf. also " India on the March " (Revue Europe, December 
15, 1928), where I have found a place for our great contemporary, 
Aurobindo Chose, of whom I shall speak again at the end of this 
volume. 
 
xvi 
 
 
 
TO MY WESTERN READERS 
 
I am no dilettante and I do not bring to jaded readers 
the opportunity to lose themselves, but rather to find them- 
selves to find their true selves, naked and without the 
mask of falsehood. My companions have ever been men 
with just that object in view, whether living or dead, and 
the limits of centuries or of races mean little to me. There 
is neither East nor West for the naked soul ; such things 
are merely its trappings. The whole world is its home. 
And as its home is each one of us, it belongs to all of us. 
 
Perhaps I may be excused if I put myself for a brief 
space upon the stage in order to explain the source of inner 
thought that has given birth to this work. I do this only 
by way of example, for I am not an exceptional man. I 
am one of the people of France. I know that I represent 
thousands of Westerners, who have neither the means nor 
the time to express themselves. Whenever one of us speaks 
from the depths of his heart in order to free his own self, 
his voice liberates at the same time thousands of silent 
voices. Then listen, not to my voice, but to the echo of 
theirs. 
 
I was born and spent the first fourteen years of my life 
in a part ofj central France where my family had been 
established for centuries. Our line is purely French and 
Catholic without any foreign admixture. And the early 
environment wherein I was sealed until my arrival in Paris 
about 1880 was an old district of the Nivernais where 
nothing from the outside world was allowed to penetrate 
within its charmed circle. 
 
So in this closed vase modelled from the clay of Gaul 
with its flaxen blue sky and its rivers I discovered all the 
colours of the universe during my childhood. When staff 
in hand in later years I scoured the roads of thought, I 
found nothing that was strange in any country. All the 
aspects of mind that I found or felt were in their origin the 
same as mine. Outside experience merely brought me the 
realization of my own mind, the states of which I had 
noted but to which I had no key. Neither Shakespeare 
nor Beethoven nor Tolstoy nor Rome, the master that 
nurtured me, ever revealed anything to me except the 
" Open Sesame " of my subterranean city, my Herculaneum, 
sleeping under its lava. And I am convinced that it sleeps 
 
xvii 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
in the depths of many of those around us. , But they are 
ignorant of its existence just as I was. Few venture beyond 
the first stage of excavation, which their own practical 
common sense has shown them to be necessary for their 
daily use, and they economize their needs like those masters 
who forged first the royal and then the Jacobin unity of 
France. I admire the structure. A historian by profession, 
I see in it one of the masterpieces of human effort enlightened 
by the spirit. " Aere perennius . . ." 4 But according to 
the old legend which demanded that if a work was to endure 
a living body should be immured in the walls, our master 
architects have entombed in their mortar thousands of 
warm human souls. They can no longer be seen beneath 
the marble facing and the Roman cement. But I cam hear 
them 1 And whoever listens will hear them as I do under 
the noble liturgy of " classic " thought. The Mass cele- 
brated on the High Altar takes no heed of them. But the 
faithful, the docile and inattentive crowd kneeling and 
standing at the given signal, ruminate in their dreams upon 
quite different herbs of St. John. 6 France is rich in souls. 
But she hides them as an old peasant woman hides her 
money. 
 
I have just rediscovered the key of the lost staircase 
leading to some of these proscribed souls. The staircase 
in the wall, spiral like the coils of a serpent, winds from 
the subterranean depths of the Ego to the high terraces 
crowned by the stars. But nothing that I saw there was 
unknown country. I had seen it all before and I knew it 
well but I did not know where I had seen it before. More 
than once I had recited from memory, though imperfectly, 
the lesson of thought learned at some former time (but from 
whom ? One of my very ancien^ selves. . . .). Now I 
re-read it, every word clear and complete, in the book of 
life held out to me by the illiterate genius who knew all 
its pages by heart Ramakrishna. 
 
In my turn I present him to you, not as a new book but 
as a very old one, which you have all tried to spell out 
(though many stopped short at the alphabet). Eventually 
 
4 Horace : " More lasting than brass." 
 
On the Feast of St. John all kinds of herbs are sold in the fairs, 
having so-called magic properties. 
 
xviii 
 
 
 
TO MY WESTERN READERS 
 
it is always the same book but the writing varies. The 
eye usually remains fixed on the cover and does not pierce 
to the core. 
 
It is always the same Book. It is always the same Man 
the Son of Man, the Eternal, Our Son, Our God reborn. 
With each return he reveals himself a little more fully, and 
more enriched by the universe. 
 
Allowing for differences of country and of time Rama- 
krishna is the younger brother of our Christ. 
 
We can show, if we choose, and as freethinking exegesists 
are trying to do to-day, that the whole doctrine of Christ 
was current before him in the Oriental soul seeded by the 
thinkers of Chaldea, Egypt, Athens and Ionia. But we 
can never stop the person of Christ, whether real or legendary 
(they are merely two orders of the same reality fl ), from 
prevailing, and rightly so, in the history of mankind over 
the personality of a Plato. It is a monumental and neces- 
sary creation of the Soul of humanity. It is its most 
beautiful fruit belonging to one of its autumns. The same 
tree has produced, according to the same law of nature, the 
life and the legend. They are both made of the same living 
body and are the emanation of its look, its breadth and its 
moisture. 
 
I am bringing to Europe, as yet unaware of it, the fruit 
of a new autumn, a new message of the Soul, the symphony 
 
The attitude of religious Indians with regard to legend is a 
curious and critical one akin to faith. It is very remarkable that 
the historic existence of the personalities they worship as Gods is 
almost a matter of indifference at all events quite secondary. So 
long as they axe spiritually true their objective reality matters little. 
Ramakrishna, the greatest of believers, said : " Those who have 
been able to conceive of such ideas ought to be able to be those 
ideas themselves." And Vivekananda who doubted the objective 
existence of Krishna and also of Christ (that of Krishna more than 
that of Christ), declared : 
 
" But to-day Krishna is the most perfect of the Avatars.** 
 
And he worshipped him. (Cf. Sfster Nivedita : Notes of some 
Wanderings with the Swami Vivekananda.) 
 
Truly religious souls recognize the living God just as much in 
the stamp with which He has marked the brains of a people as in 
the reality of an Incarnation. They are two equal realities in the 
eyes of a great believer, for whom everything that is real is God. 
And he can never quite make up his mind which of the two is the 
more imposing the creation of a people or the creation of an age. 
 
xix 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
of India, bearing the name of Ramakrishna. It can be 
shown (and we shall not fail to point out) that this sym- 
phony, like those of our classical masters, is built up of a 
hundred different musical elements emanating from the 
past. But the sovereign personality concentrating in him- 
self the diversity of these elements and fashioning them 
into a royal harmony is always the one who gives his name 
to the work, though it contain within itself the labour of 
generations. And with his victorious sign he marks a new 
era. 
 
The man whose image I here evoke was the consummation 
of two thousand years of the spiritual life of three hundred 
million people. Although he has been dead forty years 7 
his soul animates modern India. He was no hero of action 
like Gandhi, no genius in art or thought like Goethe or 
Tagore. He was a little village Brahmin of Bengal, whose 
outer life was set in a limited frame without striking incident, 
outside the political and social activities of his time. 8 But 
his inner life embraced the whole multiplicity of men and 
Gods. It was a part of the very source of Energy, the 
divine Sakti, of whom Vidyapati, 8 the old poet of Mithila, 
and Ramprasad of Bengal sing. 
 
Very few go back to the source. The little peasant of 
Bengal by listening to the message of his heart found his 
way to the inner Sea. And there he was wedded to it, thus 
bearing out the words of the Upanishads : 10 
 
T In 1886. He was fifty years old. His great disciple, Vive- 
kananda, died in 1902 at the age of thirty-nine. It should never 
be forgotten how recently they lived. We have seen the same suns, 
and the same raft of time has borne us. 
 
The life of Vivekananda was quite different, for he traversed 
the Old and the New Worlds. t 
 
" Show Thyself, O goddess with the thick tresses ! . . . Thou 
art one and many, Thou containest the thousands and Thou fillest 
the field of battle with the enemy ! . . ." (Hymn to the Goddess 
of Energy, Sakti.) * 
 
M Taittiriya Upanishad. 
 
According to the Vedanta, when Brahman the Absolute became 
endowed with qualities and began to evolve the living universe, 
He became Himself the first evolution, the first-born of Being, 
which is the Essence of all things visible and invisible. He who 
speaks thus is supposed to have attained complete identity with 
Him. 
 
XX 
 
 
 
TO MY WESTERN READERS 
 
" I am more ancient than the radiant Gods. I am the 
first-born of the Being. I am the artery of Immortality." 
 
It is my desire to bring the sound of the beating of that 
artery to the ears of fever-stricken Europe, which has 
murdered sleep. I wish to wet its lips with the blood of 
Immortality. 
 
R. R. 
Christmas, 1928. 
 
 
 
xxi 
 
 
 
Book I 
RAMAKRISHNA 
 
 
 
PRELUDE 
 
I SHALL begin my story as if it were a fable. But it is 
an extraordinary fact that this ancient legend, belong- 
ing apparently to the realm of mythology, is in reality the 
account of men who were living yesterday, our neighbours 
in the " century," and that people alive to-day have seen 
them with their own eyes. l I have received glowing testi- 
mony at their hands. I have talked with some among them, 
who were the companions of this mystic being of the Man- 
Gods and I can vouch for their sincerity. Moreover, these 
eye-witnesses are not the simple fishermen of the Gospel 
story ; some are real thinkers, learned in European thought 
and disciplined in its strict school. And yet they speak as 
men of three thousand years ago. 
 
The co-existence in one and the same brain in this our 
twentieth century of scientific reason and the visionary 
spirit of ancient times, when, as in the Greek age, gods and 
goddesses shared the bed and the board of mortal man, or 
as in the age of Galilee, when against the pale summer sky 
the heavenly winged messenger was seen, bringing the 
Annunciation to a Virgin, who bent meekly under the gift 
this is what our wise men cannot imagine ; they are no 
longer mad enough. And indeed, therein lies the real 
miracle, the richness of this world that they do not know 
how to enjoy. The majority of European thinkers shut 
 
1 At the date when this book was being written (the autumn 
of 1928) the following direct disciples and eye-witnesses of Rama- 
kriahna were still living i 
 
Swami Shivananda, the Abbot of the central Math (monastery) 
at Belur near Calcutta and the President of the Ramakrishna 
Math and Mission ; Sw. Abhedananda ; Sw. Akhandananda ; Sw. 
Ninnalananda ; Sw. Vijnanananda ; Sw. Subhodananda ; Mahendra 
Nath Gupta, editor of Discourses with the Master under the title 
" The Gospel of Ramakrishna " ; Raxnlal Chattezji, Ramakrishna's 
nephew, not to mention lay disciples, whom it is difficult to trace. 
 
3 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
themselves up on their own particular floor of the house of 
mankind; and although this floor may be stored with 
libraries containing the history of the other floors inhabited 
in the past, the rest of the house seems to them to be unin- 
habited, and they never hear from the floors above or below 
them the footsteps of their neighbours. In the concert of 
the world the orchestra is made up of all the centuries past 
and present, and they all play at the same time ; but each 
has his eyes fixed upon his own stand and on the conductor's 
baton ; he hears nothing but his own instrument. 
 
But let us listen to the whole splendid harmony of the 
present, wherein the past dreams and the future aspirations 
of all races and all ages are blended. For those who have 
ears to hear every second contains the song of humanity 
from the first-born to the last to die, unfolding like jasmine 
round the wheel of the ages. There is no need to decipher 
papyrus in order to trace the road traversed by the thoughts 
of men. The thoughts of a thousand years are all around 
us. Nothing is obliterated. Listen 1 but listen with your 
ears. Let books be silent 1 They talk too much. . . . 
 
If there is one place on the face of the earth where all 
the dreams of living men have found a home from the very 
earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it 
is India. Her unique privilege, as Earth 2 has shown with 
great clearness, has been that of a great elder sister, whose 
spiritual development, an autonomous flower continuously 
growing throughout the Methuselah-long life of the peoples, 
has never been interrupted. For more than thirty centuries 
the tree of Vision, with all its thousand branches and their 
millions of twigs, has sprung from that torrid land, the 
burning womb of the gods. It renews itself tirelessly, 
showing no signs of decay ; all kinds of fruit ripen upon 
its boughs at the same time ; side by side are found all 
kinds of gods from the most savage to the highest to the 
formless God, the Unnanjeable, the Boundless One. . . . 
Always the same tree. 
 
And the substance and thought of its interlaced branches, 
 
through which the same sap runs, have been so closely knit 
 
together, that from root to topmost twig the whole tree is 
 
vibrant, like the mast of the great ship of the Earth, and 
 
1 A. Earth : The Religions of India, 1879. 
 
4 
 
 
 
PRELUDE 
 
it sings one great symphony, composed of the thousand 
voices and the thousand faiths of mankind. Its polyphony, 
discordant and confused at first to unaccustomed ears, 
discovers to the trained ear its secret hierarchy and great 
hidden form. Moreover, those who have once heard it can 
no longer be satisfied with the rude and artificial order 
imposed amid desolation by Western reason and its faith 
or faiths, all equally tyrannical and mutually contradictory. 
What doth it profit a man to reign over a world for the most 
part enslaved, debased or destroyed ? Better to reign over 
life, comprehended, reverenced and embraced as one great 
whole, wherein he must learn how to co-ordinate its opposing 
forces in an exact equilibrium. 
 
This is the supreme knowledge we can learn from " Uni- 
verse Souls," and it is some beautiful examples of such 
souls that I wish to depict. The secret of their mastery 
and their serenity is not that of the " lilies of the field, 
arrayed in glory, who toil not, neither do they spin." They 
weave the clothes for those who go naked. They have spun 
the thread of Ariadne to guide us through the mazes of the 
labyrinth. We have only to hold the length of their thread 
in our hands to find the right path, the path which rises 
from the vast morasses of the soul inhabited by primitive 
gods stuck fast in the mire, to the peaks crowned by the 
outspread wings of heaven nrav tiUWJQ* the intangible 
Spirit. 
 
And in the life of Ramakrishna, the Man-Gods, I am 
about to relate the life of this Jacob's ladder, whereon the 
twofold unbroken line of the Divine in man ascends and 
descends between heaven and earth. 
 
8 Empedocles, "the Titan Ether/' 
 
 
 
THE GOSPEL OF CHILDHOOD l 
 
AT Kamarkupur, one of the conical villages of Bengal, 
set in the midst of palm trees, pools and rice fields, 
lived an old orthodox Brahmin couple, called Chattopad- 
hyaya. They were very poor and very pious, devotees of 
the cult of the heroic and virtuous Rama. The father, a man 
as upright as the men of old, had been despoiled of all he 
possessed, because he had refused to bear false witness to 
the advantage of the great landowner, who was his neigh- 
 
1 Note. I must warn my European readers that in describing 
this childhood, I have abstained from using my critical faculties 
(though they keep watch on the threshold). I have become simply 
the voice of the legend, the flute under the fingers of Krishna. For 
the present we need not concern ourselves with the objective reality 
of facts, but only with the subjective reality of living impressions. 
To undo the web of Penelope is an idle task. I am concerned 
rather with the dream fashioned under the fingers of a good work- 
man. A great master of learning has set us an example in this. 
Max Miiller, a faithful adherent of the critical methods of the West, 
and at the same time a respecter of other forms of thought, took 
down from the lips of Vivekananda an account of the life of the 
Paramahamsa and faithfully reproduced it in his precious little 
book, (a) For he maintained that what he calls the " dialogue or 
dialectic process," used to describe events seen and experienced by 
contemporaries, a process, which is a kind of inversion of reality 
by credible and live witn&ses, is one of the indispensable elements 
of history. All knowledge of reality is an inversion through the 
mind and the senses. Hence all sincere inversion is reality. Critical 
reason must later evaluate the degree and angle of the vision, and 
must always take into account the reflection given in the distorting 
mirror of the mind. 
 
(a) Max Miiiler : Ramakriskna, His Ufa and Sayings, 1898. 
 
A Paramahamsa is a great bird which flies high, literally, the 
Indian goose, although it bears no resemblance to the European 
species. The name is often used for a saint or sage, and is com* 
monly coupled with that of Sri Ramakrishna. 
 
7 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
bour. He received a visitation from the Gods. Although 
he was then sixty years of age he went on q, pilgrimage to 
Gaya, where is an imprint of the foot of the Lord Vishnu. 8 
The Lord appeared to him during the night, and said, " I 
am about to be reborn for the salvation of the world." 
 
About the same time in Kamarkupur his wife, Chandra- 
mani, dreamt that she had been possessed by a God. In 
the temple opposite her cottage the divine image of Shiva 
quickened to life under her eyes. A ray of light penetrated 
to the depths of her being. Under the storm Chandramani 
was overthrown and fainted. When the prey of the God 
came to herself, she had conceived. Her husband on his 
return found her transfigured. She heard voices ; she 
carried a God. 8 
 
The child, whom the world was to know as Ramakrishna, 
was born on February 18, 1836. But the gay name with 
the tripping cadences of a bell that he bore in childhood 
was Gadadhar. He was a little boy full of fun and life, 
mischievous and charming, with a feminine grace he pre- 
served to the end of his life. Nobody imagined himself 
least of all what infinite spaces, what tremendous depths 
lay hidden in the little body of this laughing child. They 
were revealed to him when he was six years old. One day 
in June or July (1842), he was sauntering along with a meal 
as small as a bird's of a little puffed rice carried in a fold 
of his garment. He was going to the fields. 
 
" I was following a narrow path between the rice fields. 
I raised my eyes to the sky as I munched my rice. I saw 
a great black cloud spreading rapidly until it covered the 
heavens. Suddenly at the dge of the cloud a flight of 
snow-white cranes passed over my head. The contrast was 
so beautiful that my spirit wandered far away. I lost con- 
sciousness and fell to the ground. The puffed rice was 
scattered. Somebody picked me up and carried me home 
in his arms. An access of Joy and emotion overcame me. 
. . . This was the first time that I was seized with ecstasy." 
 
He was destined thus to pass half his life. 
 
Even in this first ecstasy the real character of the divine 
 
1 Buddha is now regarded by the people as one of the numerous 
Incarnations of Vishnu. 
 
1 Indian legends tell of more than one " Immaculate Conception." 
 
8 
 
 
 
THE GOSPEL OF CHILDHOOD 
 
impress on the soul of the child can be seen. Artistic 
emotion, a passionate instinct for the beautiful, was the 
first channel bringing him into contact with God. There 
are as we shall see many other paths along which revela- 
tion may come, either love of a dear one, or thought, or 
self-mastery, br honest and disinterested labour, of com- 
passion or meditation. He came to know them all, but 
the most immediate and natural with him was delight in 
the beautiful face of God which he saw in all that he looked 
upon. He was a born artist. In this how greatly he differs 
from that other great soul, the Mahatma of India, whose 
European evangelist I have already become Gandhi, the 
man without art, the man without visions, who does not 
even desire them, who mistrusts them rather the man who 
lives in God through reasoned action, as is inevitable in a 
born leader of the people. The path of Ramakrishna is a 
far more dangerous one, but it leads further ; from the 
precipices skirted by it limitless horizons open out. It is 
the way of love. 
 
It is the way made peculiarly their own by his Bengal 
countrymen, a race of artists and lover poets. Its inspired 
guide had been the ecstatic lover of Krishna, Chaitanya, 
and its most exquisite music the delicious songs of Chandidas 
and Vidyapati. 4 These seraphic masters, the scented 
flowers of their soil, have impregnated it with their fragrance 
 
4 Chaitanya (1485-1553), the descendant of a family of Bengal 
Brahmins, after having achieved a great reputation as a theological 
and Sanskrit scholar, shook off the dust of the old religion with its 
paralysing formalism. He went out into the highways to preach 
a tiew gospel of love founded on mystic union with God. It was 
open to all men and women of all religions and all castes as 
brothers, and even to those without caste ; Musulmans, Hindus, 
beggars, pariahs, thieves, prostitutes, all came together to listen to 
his burning message and went away purified and strengthened. 
 
An extraordinary " Awakening " was heralded during the course 
of a century by the songs of a series of wonderful poets. The 
most exquisite of these singers was t^handidas, the poor priest of 
a ruined temple in Bengal, the lover of a young peasant girl, whom 
he hymned in mystic form in a number of immortal little poems. 
Nothing in the treasury of our European lieder can surpass the 
touching beauty of these divine elegies. Vidyapati, the aristocrat, 
whose inspiration was a Queen, attained by refined art to the 
natural perfection of the simple Chandidas, but his key is a more 
joyful one. (My earnest desire is to see some real Western poet 
 
9 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
so that Bengal has been intoxicated with it for centuries. 
The soul of the little Ramakrishna was ma,de of the same 
substance ; it was flesh of their flesh, and he was looked 
upon as a flowering branch of the tree of Chaitanya. 6 
 
The lover of divine beauty, the artistic genius as yet 
unaware of itself, appears again in a later ecstasy. One 
night during the festival of Shiva this child of eight years 
old, a passionate lover of music and poetry, a skilful modeller 
of images and the leader of a small dramatic troupe of boys 
of his own age, was taking the part of Shiva in the sacred 
representation ; suddenly his being was possessed by his 
hero ; tears of joy coursed down his little cheeks ; he lost 
himself in the glory of God ; he was transported like Gany- 
mede by the Eagle carrying the thunderbolt he was thought 
to be dead. . . . 
 
From that time the ecstasies became more frequent. In 
Europe the case would have been foredoomed and the child 
would have been placed in a lunatic asylum under a daily 
douche of psycho-therapy. Conscientiously day by day the 
flame would have been quenched. The magic lantern would 
 
transplanting these songs into our rose garden. There they would 
bloom afresh in every loving heart.) 
 
Chaitanya's disciples spread throughout Bengal. They went 
from village to village, singing and dancing to a new form of music 
called Kirtana, the wandering Bride, the Human Soul, seeking the 
Divine Love. The Ganges boatmen and the peasants took up this 
dream of the Awakened Sleeper, and his melodious echoes still fill 
the sovereign art of Tagore, especially in the Gardener and the 
Gitanjali. The feet of the child Ramakrishna moved to the rhythm 
of these Kirtanas. He drank the milk of this Vaishnavite music, 
and it is true to say that he himself became its masterpiece, his 
own life its most beautiful poem. 
 
A letter from Ramakrishna's learned disciple, the author of the 
Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Mahendra^Nath Gupta, has cleared up 
certain points with regard to this question. 
 
Ramakrishna knew the great Vaishnavite poets, but it appears 
that his knowledge was gleaned mainly from popular adaptations 
used in the performances of the native theatres, called jatras, such 
as the one wherein as a child he played the part of Shiva. He 
was inspired by Chaitanya especially after 1858, and ended by 
identifying himself with him. In one of his first interviews with 
the young Naren (Vivekananda) he scandalized the young man by 
saying to him that he had been Chaitanya in a previous Incarna- 
tion. He did a great deal to revive Chaitanya's mystic meaning, 
which had been forgotten in Bengal. 
 
10 
 
 
 
THE GOSPEL OF CHILDHOOD 
 
have been no more ! " The candle is dead." 6 Sometimes 
the child also dies. Even in India, where the centuries have 
seen a constant procession of such magic lanterns, anxiety 
was felt, and his father and mother, although accustomed 
to the visitation of gods, regarded the child's transports 
with fear. But apart from these crises, he enjoyed perfect 
health and was not at all supernormal in spite of his many 
gifts. His ingenious fingers fashioned gods from clay, the 
heroic legends blossomed in his mind ; he sang divinely 
the pastoral airs of Sri Krishna ; and sometimes his pre- 
cocious intellect took part in the discussions of learned men 
whom he astonished as Jesus had astonished the Jewish 
doctors. But this boy with his clear skin, beautiful flowing 
locks, attractive smile, charming voice and independent 
spirit, who played truant from school and who lived as free 
as air, remained a child to the end of his life, like the little 
Mozart. Until he was thirteen he was adored and petted 
by the women and girls. They recognized in him some- 
thing of their own femininity ; for he had so far assimilated 
their nature that one of his childish dreams, cradled as he 
was in the legend of Krishna and the Gopis, was to be 
reborn as a little widow, a lover of Krishna, who would be 
visited by him in her home. This was but one of the 
innumerable incarnations he imagined. Instinctively this 
Protean soul took on instantly each of the beings whom he 
saw or imagined. No man is entirely void of this magic 
plasticity. One of its inferior manifestations is that of a 
mimic, who copies attitude and facial expressions ; its 
highest (if such an expression may be used) is that of the 
God who plays for Himself the Comedy of the Universe. 
It is always the sign of art and love. Thus was foreshadowed 
the marvellous power manifested later by Ramakrishna a 
genius for espousing all the souls in the world. 
 
His father died when he was seven years old. The next 
few years were difficult ones for the family, for they had 
no resources. The eldest son, Ramkumar, 7 went to Calcutta 
and opened a school there. He sent for his younger brother, 
now an adolescent, in 1852, but the latter, filled with the 
 
Allusion to the well-known French folksong : " Au dair de la 
lune." 
 
f Ramakrishna was the fourth of five children. 
 
II 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
urge of his inner life and quite undisciplined, refused to 
learn. . 
 
At that time there was a rich woman, named Rani Ras- 
mani, belonging to an inferior caste. At Dakshineswar on 
the Eastern bank of the Ganges, some four miles from 
Calcutta, she founded a temple to the Great Goddess, the 
Divine Mother, Kali. She had considerable difficulty in 
finding a Brahmin to serve as its priest. Strangely enough 
religious India with its veneration for monks, Sadhus, and 
seers, has little respect for the paid office of priest. The 
temples are not, as in Europe, the body and the heart of 
God, the shrines of His daily renewed sacrifice. They are 
the praiseworthy foundations of the rich, who hope thereby 
to gain credit with the Divinity. True religion is a private 
affair ; its temple is each individual soul. In this case, 
moreover, the founder of the temple was a Sudra, an addi- 
tional disqualification for any Brahmin who undertook the 
charge. Ramkumar resigned himself to it in 1855 > but 
his young brother, who was very strict in all questions 
relating to caste, was only reconciled to the idea with very 
great difficulty. Little by little, however, his repugnance 
was overcome, and when in the following year his eldest 
brother died, Ramakrishna decided to take his place. 
 
 
 
12 
 
 
 
II 
 
KALI THE MOTHER 
 
r I ^HE young priest of Kali was twenty years old. He 
JL did not know what a terrible mistress he had elected 
to serve. As a purring tigress that fascinates her prey, 
she was to feed upon him, playing with him while ten long 
enchanted years passed beneath Her gleaming pupils. He 
lived in the temple alone with Her, but at the centre of 
a whirling cyclone. For the burning breath of a crowd of 
visionaries blew like the monsoon its eddies of dust through 
the door of the temple. Thither came countless pilgrims, 
monks, sadhus, fakirs, Hindus and Musulmans a congrega- 
tion of the madmen of God. 1 
 
The temple was a vast building with five domes crowned 
with spires. It was reached by aft open terrace above the 
Ganges between a double row of twelve small domed temples 
to Shiva. On the other side of a great rectangular paved 
court arose another vast temple to Krishna and Radha 
next to that of Kali. 2 ^The whole symbolic world was 
represented the Trinity of the Nature Mother (Kali), the 
Absolute (Shiva), and Love (Radhakanta : Krishna, Radha), 
 
1 There were the madmen of the Book, controlled by the single 
word, O M. There were those who danced and were convulsed 
with laughter, crying Bravo to the Illusion of the world. There 
were naked men living witn the dogs on beggars' scraps, who no 
longer distinguished between one form and another and were at- 
tached to nothing. There were the mystic and drunken bands of 
Tantrikas. Young KaTnalrrih"a observed them all (he was to 
describe them later, not without humour) with a watchful and 
anxious eye, and a mixture of repulsion and fascination. (Of. Life 
of 
 
 
 
. 
 
* The temple is still in existence. Ramakrishna's room at the 
north-west corner of the court, adjacent to the series of the twelve 
temples of Shiva, has a semi-circular verandah, its roof supported 
by columns, looking on to the Ganges on the west. A great liall 
 
13 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
the Arch spanning heaven and earth. But Kali was the 
sovereign deity. 
 
Within the temple She dwelt, a basalt figure, dressed 
in sumptuous Benares tissue, the Queen of the world and 
of the Gods. She was dancing upon the outstretched body 
of Shiva. In Her two arms on the left She held a sword 
and a severed head, on the right She offered gifts and 
beckoned, " Come ! Fear not ! . . ." She was Nature, the 
destroyer and the creator. Nay, She was something greater 
still for those who had ears to hear. She was the Universal 
Mother, " my Mother, the all-powerful, who reveals Herself 
to Her children under different aspects and Divine Incarna- 
tions," the visible God, who leads the elect to the invisible 
God, " and if it so please Her, She takes away the last 
trace of the ego from all created beings and absorbs it 
into the consciousness of the Absolute, the undifferentiated 
God. Thanks to Her the finite ego loses itself in the 
illimitable Ego Atman Brahman." 8 
 
But the young priest of twenty was still far from reaching 
the core where aU reality was fused even by the indirect 
ways of the intellect. The only reality, divine or human, 
accessible to him as yet, was that which he could see, hear 
and touch. In this he was no different from the majority 
of his people. That which is most striking to European 
believers, to Protestant Christians even more than to 
Catholic, is the intense concreteness of religious vision 
experienced by Indian believers. * 
 
When later Vivekananda asked Ramakrishna, " Have 
you seen God ? " he replied, " I see Him, as I see you, 
only far more intensely," meaning^hot in the impersonal 
and abstract sense, although he practised that as well. 
 
And it is by no means the privilege of a few inspired 
 
for music and sacred representations opened on to the great court. 
On either side there were guest-rooms, with kitchens for visitors 
and for the Gods. To the wtst lay a beautiful shady garden and 
ponds on the north and the east. It was carefully cultivated and 
full of flowers and scents. Beyond the garden can be seen the 
group of five sacred trees, planted at the deeire of Ramakrishna. 
They became famous under the name of the Panchavati. There 
he spent his days in meditation and prayer to the Mother, Below 
murmured the Ganges. 
 
, 
 
14 
 
 
 
KALI THE MOTHER 
 
persons. Every sincere Hindu devotee attains this point 
with ease, so overflowing and so fresh is the source of 
creative life in them even to-day. One of our friends 
went to the temple with a young princess of Nepal, a beauti- 
ful, intelligent and educated girl. She left her to pray for 
a long time in the intoxicating silence of the incense-filled 
dimness, lighted only with a single lamp. When the young 
Princess came out, she said, very quietly, 
 
" I have seen Rama. . . ." 
 
How then could Ramakrishna have escaped seeing " the 
Mother with the dark blue skin " ? She, the Visible One, 
was the Incarnation of the forces of Nature and of the 
Divine in the form of a woman, who has intercourse with 
mortal men Kali. Within Her temple She enveloped him 
in the scent of Her body, wound him in Her arms and 
entangled him in Her hair. She was no lay figure with 
a fixed smile, whose food consisted of litanies. She lived, 
breathed, arose from Her couch, ate, walked, lay down 
again. 
 
The service of the temple docilely followed the rhythm 
of her days. Every morning at dawn the peals of little 
bells chimed, the lights were swung. In the music-room 
the flutes played the sacred hymn to the accompaniment 
of drums and cymbals. The Mother awoke. From the 
garden, embowered in jasmine and roses, garlands were 
gathered for Her adornment. At nine in the morning music 
summoned to worship and to it came the Mother. At 
noon She was escorted to rest on Her silver bed during 
the heat of the day to the strains of more music. 4 It 
greeted her at six in the evening when She reappeared. 
It played again to the accompaniment of brandished torches 
at sundown for evening ^orship ; and conches sounded and 
little bells tinkled ceaselessly until finally at nine in the 
evening it heralded the hour for repose when the Mother 
slept. * 
 
And the priest was associated with all the intimate acts 
 
of the day. He dressed and undressed Her, he offered Her 
 
flowers and food. He was one of the attendants when 
 
the Queen arose and went to bed. How could his hands, 
 
his eyes, his heart be otherwise than gradually impregnated 
 
4 At the north-west corner of the temple. 
 
15 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
with Her flesh? The very first touch left the sting of 
Kali in his fingers and united them for ever. 
 
But after She had left Her sting in him She fled, and 
withheld Herself from him. Having pierced him with Her 
love, the wasp had concealed Herself in Her stone sheath, 
and all his efforts failed to bring Her to life again. Passion 
for the dumb Goddess consumed him. To touch Her, to 
embrace Her, to win one sign of life from Her, one look, 
one sigh, one smile, became the sole object of his existence. 
He flung himself down in the wild jungle-like part of the 
garden, meditating and praying. He tore off all his clothes, 
even to the sacred cord, which no Brahman ever lays aside ; 
but love for the Mother had revealed to him that no man 
can contemplate God unless he has shed all his prejudices. 
Like a lost child in tears he besought the Mother to show 
Herself to him. Every day spent in vain effort increased 
his distraction, and he lost all control over himself. In 
despair he writhed oil the ground in front of visitors, and 
became an object of pity, of mockery, even of scandal ; 
but he cared for none of these things. Only one thing 
mattered. He knew that he was on the verge of extreme 
happiness nothing but a thin partition, which he was, 
nevertheless, powerless to break down, separated him from 
it. He knew nothing of the science of directed ecstasy, as 
minutely noted and codified by religious India for centuries 
past with all the minutiae of a double Faculty of Medicine 
and Theology, and so he wandered haphazard, driven by 
a blind delirium. As his exaltation was entirely undirected, 
he ran considerable danger of extinction. Death lies in 
wait for the imprudent Yogin, whose path traverses the 
very edge of the abyss. He is described by those who saw 
him in those days of bewilderment, JLS having face and breast 
reddened by the afflux of blood, his eyes filled with tears and 
his body shaken with spasms. He was at the limit of physical 
endurance. When such ^ point has been reached, there is 
nothing but descent into the darkness of apoplexy or vision. . 
The partition was suddenly removed and he saw ! 
Let him speak for himself. 6 His voice rings in our ears 
 
' For this description I have used three separate accounts given 
by Ramakrishna himself. They all tell the same story, but each 
enriches the other with several details. 
 
16 
 
 
 
KALI THE MOTHER 
 
with the accents of our own " madmen of God," our great 
seers of Europe. 
 
" One day I was torn with intolerable anguish. My heart 
seemed to be wrung as a damp cloth might be wrung. . . . 
I was wracked with pain. A terrible frenzy seized me at 
the thought that I might never be granted the blessing 
of this Divine vision. I thought if that were so, then 
enough of this life ! A sword was hanging in the sanctuary 
of Kali. My eye fell upon it and an idea flashed through 
my brain like a flash of lightning ' The sword ! It will 
help me to end it.' I rushed up to it, and seized it like 
a madman. . . . And lo ! the whole scene, doors, windows, 
the temple itself, vanished. ... It seemed as if nothing 
existed any more. Instead I saw an ocean of the Spirit, 
boundless, dazzling. In whatever direction I looked great 
luminous waves were rising. They bore down upon me 
with a loud roar, as if to swallow me up. In an instant 
they were upon me, they broke over me, they engulfed me. 
I was suffocated. I lost consciousness 6 and I fell. . . . How 
I passed that day and the next I know not. Round me 
rolled an ocean of ineffable joy. And in the depths of my 
being I was conscious of the presence of the Divine Mother." 7 
 
It is noticeable that in this beautiful description there 
is no mention of the Divine Mother until the end ; she 
was merged in the Ocean. The disciples who afterwards 
quoted his exact words, asked him whether he had really 
seen the Divine form. " He did not say, but on coming 
to himself from his ecstasy he murmured in a plaintive 
tone, ' Mother ! . . . Mother ! ' " 
 
My own view, if I may be pardoned the presumption, 
is that he saw nothing, but that he was aware of Her all- 
 
* The exact text reads, " I lost all natural consciousness." This 
detail is important, for the rest of the story shows that a higher 
consciousness, that of the inner world, was on the other hand most 
keenly perceptive. * 
 
7 Sri Ramakrishna, the Great Master, Vol. II, by Swami Sara- 
dananda, published by the Ramakrishna Math of Mylapore, Madras, 
1920. Saradananda, who died in 1927, was on terms of intimacy 
with Ramakrishna and likewise possessed one of the loftiest reli- 
gious and philosophical minds in India. His biography, unfortun- 
ately unfinished, is at once the most interesting and the most 
reliable. 
 
17 c 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
permeating presence. He called the Ocean by her name. 
His experience was like a dream, to give a lesser example, 
wherein without the slightest feeling of incongruity, the 
mind attaches the name of the being filling its thoughts 
to quite a different form ; the object of our love is in every- 
thing ; all forms are but its cloak. On the shores of that 
sea which rolled down upon Ramakrishna, I see immedi- 
ately the form of St. Theresa of Avila. She also felt herself 
engulfed in the infinite until the scruples of her Christian 
faith and the stern admonitions of her watchful directors 
led her against her own convictions to confine God within 
the form of the Son of Man. 8 
 
But Ramakrishna the lover had not to struggle against 
the bent of his heart. On the contrary it led him from 
the formless to the form of his Beloved. He wished it 
to ; for once he had seen and possessed it for an instant, 
he could not live without it. From that day onward he 
would have ceased to exist if he had not constantly renewed 
the fiery vision. Without it the world was dead, and living 
men as nothing but vain shadows, painted figures upon a 
screen. 
 
It was also at a moment of extreme lassitude that Theresa 
perceived, like a sudden inflooding, the invasion of the Invisible ; 
just such a sea engulfed her. Later on the hard scruples of Sal- 
cedo and Gaspard Daza forced her, at the cost of considerable 
suffering, to confine the Infinite within the finite bounds of the 
body of Christ. 
 
Further, the ecstasy in Ramakrishna's case followed the normal 
course of such revelations, as was only natural. Cf. the full col- 
lection of documents, gathered together by Starbuck under the title, 
The Psychology of Religion, a collection used by William James. 
Almost always it comes about that when effort has been exhausted 
the spirit attains through anguish. The despair crushing the old 
self is the door leading to the new. 
 
Again it is a remarkable fact that the great vision often mani- 
fests itself through " photisms " (luminous phenomena) and by an 
oceanic flood. Cf. pp. 215-16, William James, Religious Experience, 
giving the beautiful account'of President Finney's vision : 
 
" ' Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love 
. . .' These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one 
after the other, until I recollect I cried out, ' I shall die if these 
waves continue to pass over me/ I said, ' Lord, I cannot bear 
any more ' ; yet I had no fear of death." 
 
Cf . also the magnificent account of the great mystic as observed 
and described by Th. Flournoy. 
 
18 
 
 
 
KALI THE MOTHER 
 
But nobody. faces the illimitable with impunity. The 
shock of the first encounter was so violent that his whole 
being remained in a shuddering state. He only saw those 
around him through a veil of drifting mist, of dissolving 
waves of silver shot with sparks of fire. He could no 
longer control his eyes, his body, or his mind; another 
will guided them, and he passed through some terrible 
hours. He prayed the Mother to come to his aid. 
 
Then suddenly he understood. He was possessed by the 
Mother. He ceased to resist. " Fiat voluntas tual . . ." 
She filled him. And out of the mists little by little the 
material form of the Goddess emerged, first a hand, then 
Her breath, Her voice, finally Her whole person. Here 
is one of the marvellous visions of the poet, among a hundred 
others. 
 
It was evening. The rites were over for the day. The 
Mother was supposed to be asleep, and he had returned 
to his room outside the temple above the Ganges. But 
he could not sleep. He listened. ... He heard Her get 
up ; She went up to the upper story of the temple with 
the joy of a young girl. As She walked the rings of Her 
anklets rang. He wondered if he were dreaming. His 
heart hammered in his breast. He went out into the court 
and raised his head. There he saw Her with unbound 
hair on the balcony of the first floor, watching the Ganges 
flow through the beautiful night down to the distant lights 
of Calcutta. . . . 
 
From that moment his days and nights were passed in 
the continual presence of his Beloved. Their intercourse 
was uninterrupted like the flow of the river. Eventually 
he was identified with Her, and gradually the radiance of 
his inner vision became outwardly manifest. Other people 
seeing him, saw what he saw. Through his body as through 
a window appeared the bodies of the Gods. Mathur Babu, 
the son-in-law of the foundress of the temple and the master 
of the place, was sitting one day in his room opposite 
Ramakrishna's. Unobserved he watched him pacing up 
and down upon his balcony. Suddenly he uttered a cry, 
for he saw him alternately in the form of Shiva as he walked 
in one direction, and of the Mother as he turned and walked 
in the opposite direction. 
 
19 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
To most people his madness of love was a -crying scandal. 
He was no longer capable of performing the temple rites. 
In the midst of the ritual acts he was seized with fits of 
unconsciousness, sudden collapses and petrifactions, when 
he lost the control of the use of his joints and stiffened 
into a statue. At other times he permitted himself the 
strangest familiarities with the Goddess. 9 His functions 
remained in a state of suspension. He never closed his 
eyes. He no longer ate. If a nephew who was present 
had not looked after his most pressing needs, he would 
have died. Such a condition brought those evils in its 
train, from which our Western visionaries have also suffered. 
Minute drops of blood oozed through his skin. His whole 
body seemed on fire. His spirit was a furnace, whose 
leaping flames were the Gods. After a period when he 
saw the Gods in the persons about him (in a prostitute 
he saw Sita ; in a young Englishman standing upright 
cross-legged against a tree, he saw Krishna), he became 
the Gods himself. He was Kali, he was Rama, he was 
Radha, the lover of Krishna, 10 he was Sita, he was the 
great monkey, Hanuman ! u Without insisting on detail, 
I have no intention of passing lightly over these deliriums 
of a soul with neither check nor pilot, given over to the 
 
f He no longer showed any consideration for his patrons, whose 
exemplary fidelity consistently defended him against all attack. 
One day when the rich devotee, the foundress, Rani Rasmani, was 
praying with her mind elsewhere, Ramakrishna discerned the 
frivolous objects passing through her thoughts, and publicly re- 
buked her. Those present were greatly excited, but Rasmani her- 
self remained calm. She nobly considered that it was the Mother, 
who had rebuked her. 
 
10 Later he was the gopi (milkmaid), Krishna's lover, for six 
months. 
 
11 The process of these realizations is interesting. He became 
the person of Rama by stages, through the people who served Rama, 
beginning with the humblest, Hanuman. Then in reward, as he 
himself believed, Sita appearea to him. This was his first complete 
vision with his eyes open. All his succeeding visions came by the 
same successive stages. First he saw the figures outside himself \ 
then they vanished within himself, finally he became them himself. 
This ardent creative act is striking, but was natural to one of his 
astounding plastic genius. As soon as he visualized a thought, his 
vision became incarnate. Imagine living within the innermost being 
of a Shakespeare, while he was producing a film. 
 
2O 
 
 
 
KALI THE MOTHER 
 
furious v^aves of his passion, to the insatiable voracity of 
a wolf, ravening for the Gods. Later they had their revenge 
and preyed upon him in their turn. I have no intention 
of deceiving my Western reader. He is at liberty, just as 
I was myself, 12 to judge whether the madman of God ought 
to have been put in a strait jacket or not. We have good 
ground for such an opinion, for even in India men of the 
greatest sanctity held that view when they saw him. At 
the time he submitted patiently to be examined by doctors 
and followed their vain prescriptions, and later, when he 
looked back over the past and sounded the depths of the 
abyss from which he had escaped, he himself could not 
understand why his reason, and even life itself, had not 
foundered. 
 
But the extraordinary thing for us, and the only thing 
that matters, is that, instead of foundering, they rounded 
the Cape of Storms victoriously. Nay, this period of 
hallucination appears to have been a necessary stage whence 
his spirit was to rise in the fullness of joyous and harmonious 
power to mighty realizations for the benefit of humanity. 
Here is a subject of research tempting to great physicians 
both of the body and of the mind. There is no difficulty 
in proving the apparent destruction of his whole mental 
structure, and the disintegration of its elements. But how 
were they reassembled into a synthetic entity of the highest 
order? How was this ruined building restored to a still 
greater edifice and by nothing but will power ? As we 
shall see by the sequel, Ramakrishna became master alike 
of his madness and of his reason, of Gods and of men. 
At times he would open the floodgates of the deeps of 
his soul, at others would conduct with his disciples smiling 
dialogues, in the mannsr of a modern Socrates, full of 
ironic wisdom and penetrating good sense. 
 
But in 1858 at the time of the facts related here, Rama- 
krishna had not yet achieved tke mastery. He had still 
a long way to go. And if I have anticipated somewhat 
 
11 1 will not deny the fact that when I had reached this point 
in my researches, I shut up the book. Probably I should not have 
opened it again for a long time, if I had not known by certain 
indications what heights of wisdom he was to attain in the later 
years of his life. 
 
21 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
the end of his life, I have done so to warn the European 
reader against his first judgment, which was also my own. 
Patience 1 The ways of the spirit are disconcerting. Let 
 
us await the end ! 
 
* * * 
 
In truth at this period the tramp of God went about 
like a blind man with closed eyes and without a guide. 
Instead of keeping to the path, he forced his way through 
the briars of the hedges and fell into the ditches. Never- 
theless he advanced ; each time that he fell he picked 
himself up again and went on his way. 
 
Do not imagine that he was proud or obstinate. He 
was the most simple of men. If you had told him that 
his condition was a disease, he would have asked you to 
prescribe a remedy, and he would not have refused to try 
any cure. 
 
For a time he was sent back to his home at Kamar- 
pukur. His mother wished him to be married, hoping that 
marriage would cure him of his divine enchantment. He 
made no demur ; indeed, he showed an innocent pleasure 
at the thought. But what a strange marriage it was, not 
much more real (less real, indeed, in spirit) than his union 
with the Goddess ! His bride (1859) was a child of five 
years old. I feel, as I write, what a shock this will be 
to my Western reader. I do not wish to spare him. Child- 
marriage is an Indian custom, and one which has most 
often roused the indignation of Europe and America. The 
virtuous Miss Mayo has recently raised its flag, though 
rather a tattered one ; for the best minds of India, the 
Brahmo Samaj, Tagore, Gandhi, 18 have for long condemned 
the practice, although it is usually more of a formality 
 
4 
 
11 Gandhi, who knows too much about child-marriage (for he 
was one of those children who has kept throughout his life the 
burning confusion of his precocious experiences), is particularly 
virulent against this abuse.* Nevertheless, he recognizes that in 
exceptional cases among chosen souls, who are loyal and religious, 
a mutual engagement dating from infancy may have very pure 
and beneficent results. It removes all other temptations common 
to the unhealthy preoccupations of adolescence, and it gives to the 
union a quality of holy comradeship. It is well known what an 
admirable companion the little child, whose fate was joined to his, 
has been for Gandhi during the difficult course of his life. 
 
22 
 
 
 
KALI THE MOTHER 
 
than a reality-Tchild-marriage being generally nothing more 
than a simple religious ceremony, akin to a Western betrothal 
remaining unconsummated until after puberty. In the case 
of Ramakrishna, making it doubly revolting in the eyes 
of Miss Mayo, the union was between a little girl of five 
and a man of twenty-three ! But peace to scandalized 
minds ! It was a union of souls and remained uncon- 
summated a Christian marriage so-called in the days of 
the Early Church and later it became a beautiful thing. 
A tree must be judged by its fruits, and in this case the 
fruits were of God, pure and not carnal love. Little Sara- 
damani 14 was to become the chaste sister of a big friend 
who venerated her, the immaculate companion of his trials 
and of his faith, the firm and serene soul, whom the disciples 
associated with his sanctity as the Holy Mother. 1 * 
 
For the time being the little girl returned according 
to custom to the house of her parents after the ceremony 
of marriage had been performed, and did not see her husband 
again for the long period of eight or nine years, while her 
husband, who seemed to have regained some measure of 
calm at his mother's house, returned to his temple. 
 
But Kali was waiting for him. Hardly had he crossed 
the threshold than divine delirium in its most violent 
form was rekindled. Like Hercules in a Nessus shirt, he 
was a living funeral pyre. The legion of Gods swooped 
upon him like a whirlwind. He was torn in pieces. He 
was divided against himself. His madness returned tenfold. 
He saw demoniac creatures emerging from him, first a 
black figure representing sin ; then a sannyasin, who slew 
sin like an archangel. (Are we in India or a thousand 
years ago in some Christian monastery of the West ?) He 
remained motionless, patching these manifestations issue 
from him. Horror paralysed his limbs. Once again for 
long periods 16 at a time his eyes refused to close. He 
felt madness approaching and terrified, he appealed to the 
 
14 Her family name was Mukhopadhyaya. Afterwards she was 
known by the name of Saradadevi. 
 
11 So she has been called. The Indian of good family has always 
had this exquisite custom of giving the name " Mother " to all 
womanhood, however much younger than himself. 
 
16 He claims for six years. 
 
23 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
Mother. The vision of Kali was his only hope of survival. 
Two years went by in this orgy of mental intoxication 
and despair. 17 
At length help came. 
 
17 In 1861 his protectress, Rani Rasmani, died. Fortunately her 
son-in-law, Mathur Babu, remained devoted to him. 
 
 
 
Ill 
 
THE TWO GUIDES TO KNOWLEDGE ; THE BHARAVI 
BRAHAMI AND TOTAPURI 
 
UP to this point he had been swimming alone at the 
mercy of chance in an uncharted and boundless 
stream with its roaring rapids and whirlpools of the soul. 
He was on the verge of exhaustion, when two beings appeared 
on the scene, who held his head above water, and who taught 
him how to use its currents in order to cross the stream. 
The age-long history of the spirit of India is the history 
of a countless throng marching ever to the conquest of 
supreme Reality. All the great peoples of the world, 
wittingly or unwittingly, have the same fundamental aim ; 
they belong to the conquerors who age by age go up to 
assault the Reality of which they form a part, and which 
lures them on to strive and climb ; sometimes they fall 
out exhausted, then with recovered breath they mount 
undaunted until they have conquered or been overcome. 
But each one does not see the same face of Reality. It 
is like a great fortified city beleaguered on different sides 
by different armies who are not in alliance. Each army 
has its own tactics and weapons to solve its own problems 
of attack and assault. Our Western races l storm the 
bastions, the outer works. They desire to overcome the 
physical forces of Naturft, to make her laws their own, 
 
1 In order to explain my meaning I am obliged to use the doubt- 
ful terms, West and East. But I hope that wise readers will dis- 
tinguish, as I do, many divisions of Mie West. For us the East 
in its ordinary sense means the Near East, the Semitic East, which 
in my sense of the word is further in spirit from India than some 
parts of the West, Slav, Germanic or Nordic. At this place in 
the story I am using the term West to indicate the march to the 
West of the great European races and those on the other side of 
the Atlantic, who have detached themselves from the common 
Indo-European stock. 
 
25 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
so that they may construct weapons therefrom for gaining 
the inner citadel, and forcing the whole fortress to capitulate. 
 
India proceeds along different lines. She goes straight to 
the centre, to the Commander-in-Chief of the unseen General 
Headquarters ; for the Reality she seeks is transcendental. 
But let us be careful not to put Western " realism " in 
opposition to Indian "idealism." Both are "realisms." 
Indians are essentially realists in that they are not easily 
contented with abstractions, and that they attain their ideal 
by the self-chosen means of enjoyment and sensual posses- 
sion. They must see, hear, taste and touch ideas. Both 
in sensual richness and in their extraordinary imaginative 
power they are far in advance of the West. 2 How then can 
we reject their evidence in the name of Western reason ? 
Reason, in our eyes, is an impersonal and objective path 
open to all men. But is reason really objective ? To what 
degree is it true in particular instances ? Has it no personal 
limits ? Again, has it been carefully noted that the " reali- 
zations " of the Hindu mind, which seems to us ultra- 
subjective, are nothing of the kind in India, where they are 
the logical result of scientific methods and of careful experi- 
ment, tested throughout the centuries and duly recorded ? 
Each great religious visionary is able to show his disciples 
the way by which without a shadow of doubt they too may 
attain the same visions. Surely both methods, the Eastern 
and the Western, merit an almost equal measure of scientific 
doubt and provisional trust. To the truly scientific mind 
of to-day a widely generalized mistake, if it be sincere, is 
a relative truth. If the vision is false, the important thing 
to be discovered is wherein lies the fallacy, and then to 
allow it other premises to lead on to the higher reality 
beyond it. 
 
The common belief of India, whether clearly defined or 
vaguely felt, is that nothing exists save in and through the 
 
 
 
1 1 am far from denying to Indian thinkers a capacity for intel- 
lectual concentration in the Absolute ; but even the " Formless " 
of the Advaita Vedanta is embraced to a certain extent by their 
burning intuition. Even if the " Formless " is without attributes 
and beyond vision, is it so certain that it is beyond some form 
of mysterious touch ? Is not revelation itself a kind of terrible 
contact ? 
 
26 
 
 
 
THE TWO GUIDES TO KNOWLEDGE 
 
universal Spirit,, the one and indivisible : Brahman. 8 The 
diverse images of everything contained in the universe had 
their birth in Him, and the reality of the universe is derived 
from the same universal Spirit, whose conception it is. 
Individual spirits, we who form an integral and organic part 
of the Cosmic Spirit, see the idea of the multiform and 
changing universe, and we attribute an independent reality 
to it. Until we have achieved knowledge of the one Brah- 
man, we are bewildered by Maya, Illusion, which has no 
beginning and is outside time ; and so we take what is 
nothing but an incessant stream of passing images, spring- 
ing from the invisible source, the One Reality, 4 to be the 
permanent reality. 
 
Hence we must escape from the stream of Illusion, rolling 
all round us, and like trout that leap over all barriers and 
scale waterfalls, we must go back to the source. Such is 
our unavoidable destiny, but it leads to salvation. Sadhana 
is the name given to this painful but heroic and magnificent 
struggle. The Sadhakas are they who wage it. Their small 
legion, renewed from age to age, is recruited from the fear- 
less souls ; for they have to submit to a system of appli- 
cation and rough discipline having the sanction of age-long 
experiment behind them. Two ways or weapons 6 are open 
to them, both needing long application and constant practice. 
The first is the way of " Not this ! Not this ! " 6 which 
may be called the way of Knowledge by radical negation 
 
" Everything is Brahman, all the various objects, both coarse 
and refined. Everything exists only in Brahman, the one and 
indivisible/ ' Shastras. 
 
4 I have taken this brief summary of thought from the masterly 
exposition of Swami Saradananda at the beginning of his Sri Rama- 
krishna, the Great Master. 
 
There are many others which I shall discuss in the second part 
of this work, when I study the philosophic and religious thought of 
Vivekananda. There I shall find room for a long exposition of the 
Yoga principle of India. 
 
Neti (not this) is the name givem to Brahman himself by the 
authors of the Upanishads. Cf. the work of the Christian mystic, 
St. Denis, the Areopagite : Treatise on Mystic Theology, Chapter V, 
where he says that the supreme author of intelligible things is 
absolutely nothing that can be conceived by the understanding. 
There the master theologian collects on one page all the negatives 
in order to define God. (The Works of St. Denis the Areopagite, 
trans, and ed. by Mgr. Darboy, new edition, 1887, pp. 285-86.) 
 
27 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
or the weapon of the Jnanin ; the second is the way of 
" This 1 This 1 " which may be called the way of Know- 
ledge by progressive affirmation, or the weapon of the 
Bhakta. The first relies solely on intellectual knowledge, 
and has always rejected everything, either real or apparent, 
outside it, proceeding with strained resolutions and eyes 
fixed on the supreme goal. The second is the way of love. 
The love of the Well-Beloved (whose form varies as it 
becomes more pure) gradually leads to the renunciation of 
all else. The way of Jnana is that of the absolute or im- 
personal God. The way of Bhakti is that of the personal 
God at least its pilgrims linger long on the way before 
finally rejoining the pilgrim of Jnana. 
 
The way of Bhakti was the way the blind instinct of 
Ramakrishna had unconsciously adopted from the first. 
But he knew nothing of its windings and lurking ambushes. 
It was true that a complete Itinerary from Paris to Jeru- 
salem 7 existed, wherein the whole course from the starting 
point to the winning post was carefully mapped out, con- 
taining all the accidents of the way, the mountains and the 
gradients, the dangerous corners and the stopping places, 
carefully arranged in advance and wisely distributed. But 
the runner of Kamarpukur knew nothing of it. He went 
where his wild heart and his legs carried him ; and at last, 
exhausted by his superhuman efforts, without guidance or 
assistance, maddened with solitude in the depths of the 
forest, he had moments when he gave himself up for lost. 
He had almost reached the last rough halting place, when 
help came to him through a woman. 
 
One day from his terrace he was watching the boats with 
their multi-coloured sails darting to and fro upon the 
Ganges, when he saw one put in at the foot of his terrace. 
A woman came up the steps. She was tall and beautiful, 
with long unbound hair and wearing the saffron robe of a 
Sannyasin* She was between thirty-five and forty, but 
 
7 Allusion to the name of a famous book by Chateaubriand. 
 
8 A Sannyasin, according to Max Miiller's definition, is a person 
who has left everything and renounced all worldly desire. The 
definition of the Bhagavadgita is, " One who neither hates *nor loves 
anything." The lady in question had not yet attained this state 
of divine indifference, as we shall see later. 
 
28 
 
 
 
THE TWO GUIDES TO KNOWLEDGE 
 
she looked younger. Ramakrishna was struck with her 
appearance and sent for her. She came. As soon as she 
saw him, she burst into tears and said, 
 
" My son, I have been looking for you for a long time." 9 
She was a Brahmin of a noble Bengal family, a devotee 
of Vishnu, 10 highly educated and very learned in holy texts, 
especially in the Bhakti Scriptures. She said she was look- 
ing for the man inspired by God, whose existence had been 
revealed to her by the Spirit, and that she had been entrusted 
with a message for him. Without further introduction and 
without even discovering her name (she was never known 
by any other than that of the Bhairavi Brahmani, the 
Brahmin nun) the relations of mother and son were estab- 
lished there and then between the holy woman and the 
priest of Kali. Ramakrishna confided in her as a child 
might have done and told her all the tortured experiences 
of his life in God, of his Sadhana, together with the misery 
of his bodily and mental sufferings. He told her that many 
thought him mad, and asked her humbly and anxiously 
whether they were right. The Bhairavi , having heard all 
his confessions, comforted him with maternal tenderness, 
and told him to have no fear, for he had certainly reached 
one of the highest states of the Sadhana as described in the 
Bhakti texts by his own unguided efforts. His sufferings 
were simply the measure of his ascent. She looked after 
his bodily welfare and enlightened his mind. She made 
him in broad daylight go back over the road of knowledge, 
which he had already traversed alone and blindfold in the 
 
This encounter with the simple charm of a story from the Arabian 
Nights, has roused doubts in the mind of European historians. They 
are inclined to see in this episode, as does Max Miiller, a symbol 
of the psychic evolution of ilamakrishna. But the personality of 
his instructress during the six years she remained with him contains 
too many individual traits (and not always to her credit), for there 
to be any doubt that she was a real woman, with all a woman's 
weaknesses. * 
 
10 The Vaishnavite cult was essentially a cult of love. Rama- 
krishna belonged to a Vaishnava family. 
 
Vishnu, the ancient sun god, established his sovereignty over the 
whole world by his incarnations, the chief being Krishna and Rama. 
(Cf. Barth, op. cit., pp. 100 et seqq.) Both these divinities appear in 
the name of the hero of this story, while he was himself saluted later 
in his life as a new incarnation, an Avatara, God and man. 
 
29 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
night. By instinct alone Ramakrishna had obtained in the 
course of several years " realizations " which mystic science 
had taken centuries to achieve ; but he could not become 
truly their master until he had been shown the way whereby 
he had achieved them. 
 
The Bhakta, whose knowledge is derived through love, 
begins by accepting one form of God as his chosen ideal, 
as Ramakrishna the Divine Mother. For a long time he 
is absorbed in this one love. At first he cannot attain the 
object of his devotion, but gradually he comes to see, touch 
and converse with it. From that moment the slightest 
concentration is enough to make him feel the living presence 
of his Lord. As he believes that his Lord is in everything, 
in all forms, he soon begins to perceive other forms of Gods 
emanating from his own Beloved. This divine polymor- 
phism peoples his vision. Eventually he is so filled with 
its music that there is no room in him for anything else, 
and the material world disappears. This is called the 
Savikala Samadhi or state of superconscious ecstasy, 
wherein the spirit still clings to the inner world of thought, and 
enjoys the sentiment of its own life with God. But when 
one idea has taken possession of the soul, all other ideas 
fade and die away, and his soul is very near its final end, 
the Nirvikalpa Samadhi the final union with Brahman. 
It is not far to that cessation of thought wherein at last 
absolute Unity is realized by complete renunciation. 11 
Ramakrishna had travelled along three quarters of this 
spiritual pilgrimage as a blind man. 12 The Bhairavi, whom 
he adopted as his spiritual mother, as his Guru or teacher, 
 
11 1 am still depending for this explanation on the treatise of 
Sw. Saradananda. (Cf. Ruysbroeck : De ornatu spiritalium nup- 
tiarwn : " Go forth 1 It is God wko speaks. . . . He speaks 
through the darkness to the spirit and the spirit sinks and slips 
away. It must lose itself in the sacred gloom, where bliss delivers 
man from himself, so that he never finds himself again according 
to human ideas. In the abyss where love gives the fire of death, 
I see the dawn of eternal life. . . . By the virtue of this immense 
love we possess the joy of dying to ourselves and of bursting from 
our prison house, to be lost in the ocean of the Essence and in the 
burning darkness/' III, i, 2, and 4, and passim, trans. Ernest 
Hello.) 
 
11 But his nature had held him back on the last mile of the way, 
at the cross roads where man takes leave of the personal God and of 
 
30 
 
 
 
THE TWO GUIDES TO KNOWLEDGE 
 
showed him all its phases and their import. Having herself 
practised religious exercises, she was conversant with the 
roads of knowledge, and so she made him try all the roads 
of the Sadhana in turn and methodically according to the 
rules of the Holy Books, even the most dangerous ones, 
the Tantras, which expose the sense and spirit to all the 
disturbances of the flesh and the imagination, so that these 
may be overcome. But the path skirts the precipices of 
degradation and madness, and more than one who has 
ventured upon it has never returned. 18 Ramakrishna the 
pure, however, came back as pure as he started out, and 
tempered as steel. 
 
He was now in possession of all forms of union with God 
by love " the nineteen attitudes/ 1 or different emotions 
of the soul in the presence of its Lord, such as the relations 
of a servant and his master, a son and his mother, a friend, 
a lover, a husband, etc. He had invested all sides of the 
Divine citadel ; and the man who had conquered God 
partook of His nature. 
 
His initiator recognized in him an Incarnation of the 
Divinity. She accordingly called a meeting at Dakshines- 
war and after learned discussion by the Pandits, the Bhairavi 
insisted that the theological authorities should give public 
recognition to the new Avatar a. 
 
Then his fame began to spread. People came from afar 
to see the wonderful man, who had succeeded, not only in 
one Sadhana, but in all. The ascetics, who by one road 
or another were straining towards God monks, sages, 
 
his love. His spiritual mother, the Bhairavi, did not try to urge 
him beyond them. They both instinctively shrank from the blind 
vision, from the last abyss, the Impersonal. 
 
1S The greatest Hindu thinker of to-day, Aurobindo Ghose, of whom 
I shall speak in the second part of this work, has rehabilitated 
the way of Tantra, which had become discredited on account of 
the licentious misuse of certain of its methods. While castigating 
these, he has vindicated its original sense, and he has shown its 
grandeur. Contrary to the other Vedic Yoga whoso Lord is the 
Purusha (the conscious soul) and Knowledge the aim, the Lord of 
the Tantra is Prakriti (Energy the soul of Nature) and its end the 
fullness of possession. Instead of fleeing from Nature, the Tantra 
faces and seizes her. It is Dionysias as opposed to Apollyon. It 
is of some importance to note that Ramakrishna, alone of all Indian 
Yogin, united in himself the two complementary aspects. 
 
31 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
Sadkus, visionaries all came to seek his advice and to be 
instructed by him, who now sat at the cross-roads and 
dominated them. Their accounts speak of the fascination 
produced by the appearance of the man who had come back 
not, as Dante, from Hell but as a pearl-fisher from the 
deep sea of the golden radiance of his body burnt and 
purified so long in the fires of ecstasy. 14 But to the end 
of his life he remained the most simple of men without a 
trace of pride ; for he was too intoxicated with God to 
consider himself, and was preoccupied much less with what 
he had already achieved than with what was still to do. 
He disliked all mention of his being an Avatara, and when 
he had arrived at the point that everybody else, even the 
Bhairavi, his guide, took to be the summit, he looked up 
to the rest of the ascent, the last steep arete. And he was 
obliged to climb to the very top. 
 
But for this last ascent the old guides were not sufficient. 
And so his spiritual mother, who had jealously cherished 
him for three years, had, like so many other mothers, the 
pain of seeing her son, once dependent on her milk, escape 
her to follow a higher command from another master with 
 
a sterner and more virile voice. 
 
* * * 
 
Towards the end of 1854 J us ^ a ^ the moment when Rama- 
krishna had achieved his conquest of the personal God, the 
messenger of the impersonal God, ignorant as yet of his 
mission, arrived at Dakshineswar. This was Tota Puri (the 
naked man) an extraordinary Vedantic ascetic, a wander- 
ing monk, who had reached the ultimate revelation after 
forty years of preparation a liberated soul, who looked 
with impersonal gaze upon the phanton of this world with 
complete indifference. 
 
For a long time Ramakrishna, not without anguish, had 
felt prowling round him the formless God and the inhuman, 
the superhuman indifference of His Missi Dominici those 
Paramahamsas from the ratified heights, detached for ever 
from all things, terrible ascetics denuded of body and spirit, 
 
14 The Yogins of India constantly note this effect of the great 
ecstasy caused by an afflux of blood. As we shall see later, Rama- 
krishna could tell as soon as he saw the breast of a religious man, 
whom he was visiting, whether or no he had passed through the 
fire of God. 
 
32 
 
 
 
THE TWO GUIDES TO KNOWLEDGE 
 
despoiled of the heart's last treasure : the diamond of love 
of the divine. During the early days of his stay at Dak- 
shineswar he had felt the terrible fascination of these living 
corpses ; and he had wept with terror at the idea that he 
too might have to come to a similar condition. Imagine 
what it must have cost a nature such as I have described 
that of this madman of love, this born lover and artist. 15 
He needed to see, to touch, to consume the object of his 
love, and he remained unsatisfied until he had embraced 
the living form, had bathed in it as in a river, and had 
espoused the divine mould and all its beauties. Such a 
man was to be forced to abandon the home of his heart and 
sink body and soul in the formless and the abstract ! Such 
a train of thought must have been more painful and more 
alien to his nature than it would be to one of our Western 
scientists. 
 
But he could not escape it. His very terror fascinated 
him like the eyes of a snake. Dizzy though he was at the 
contemplation of the heights, he who had reached the peaks 
was obliged to go on to the very end. The explorer of the 
continent of the Gods could not stop until he had reached 
the source of the mysterious Nile. 
 
I have said already that the formless God lay in wait for 
him with all his terror and attraction. But Ramakrishna 
did not go to Him. Tota Puri came to fetch the lover of 
Kali. 
 
He saw him first without being seen as he was passing 
by ; for he could not stay longer than three days in one 
place. Seated on one of the steps of the temple, the young 
priest, 16 was lost in the happiness of his hidden vision. 
Tota Puri was struck by it. 
 
41 My son," he said, " I see that you have already travelled 
far along the way of truth. If you so wish it, I can help 
you to reach the next stage. I will teach you the Vedanta" 
 
Ramakrishna, with an innocent simplicity that made even 
the stern ascetic smile, replied that he must first ask leave 
 
 
 
11 It is a remarkable fact that Ramakrishna, though 
gifted for poetry and the arts, had no taste for mathematics. Vive- 
kananda's mind was of a different order. Though not less artistic 
he knew and loved the sciences. 
 
lf He was then twenty-eight years old. 
 
33 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
of the Mother (Kali). She gave Her permission, and he 
then put himself with humble and complete confidence 
under the guidance of his divine teacher. 
 
But first he had to submit to the test of " Initiation." 
The first condition was to renounce all his privileges and 
insignia, the Brahmin cord and the dignity of priest. These 
things were nothing to him ; but he had also to renounce 
his affections and the illusions whereby he had hitherto 
lived the personal God and the entire harvest of the fruit 
of his love and sacrifice here and elsewhere, now and for 
ever. Naked as the earth he had symbolically to conduct 
his own funeral service. He had to bury the last remains 
of his ego his heart. Then only could he reclothe himself 
in the saffron robe of a Sannyasin, the emblem of his new 
life. Tota Puri now began to teach him the cardinal virtues 
of the Advaita Vedanta, 17 the Brahman one and undiffer- 
entiated, and how to dive deep in search of the ego, so that 
its identity with Brahman might be realized and that it 
might be firmly established in Him through Samadhi 
(ecstasy). 
 
It would be a mistake to think that it was easy even for 
 
17 The Advaita " without second " is the strictest and most 
abstract form of the Vedanta. It first appeared in the ninth century 
A.D., and its most famous exponent in the eleventh century 
Sankara, of whom I shall have more to say later. It was absolute 
Non-Dualism. Nothing but one unique Reality existed to the 
exclusion of every other. Its name was immaterial, God, the 
Infinite, the Absolute, Brahman-Atman, etc. : for this Reality did 
not possess a single attribute to assist in its definition. To every 
attempt at definition Sankara, like Dems the Areopagite, had only 
one answer " No ! No 1 " Everything which has the appearance 
of existence, the world of our mind and senses, is nothing but the 
Absolute under a false conception (^vidya). Under the influence 
of Avidya, which Sankara and his school found it very difficult 
to explain clearly, Brahman adopts names and forms, which are 
nothing but non-existence. The only existence beneath this flood 
of " ego " phantoms is tb^true Self, the Paramatman, the One. 
Good works are powerless to help in its realization, although they 
perhaps help to bring about a propitious atmosphere from whence 
Consciousness may emerge. But Consciousness alone and direct 
can deliver and save the soul (Mukti). Hence the yv&dt aearrov 
(Know thyself) of the Greeks, is opposed, as has been shown, to 
the " See the Self and be the Self" of the great Indian Vedantists. 
. . . Tat tvam asi (Thou art that). 
 
34 
 
 
 
THE TWO GUIDES TO KNOWLEDGE 
 
one who had gone through all the other stages of ecstasy, 
to find the key to the narrow door leading to the last. His 
own account deserves to be reproduced, for it belongs not 
only to the sacred texts of India, but to the Archives of 
the West, wherein are preserved all the documents relating 
to the revelations of the science of the Spirit. 
 
" The naked man, Tota Puri, taught me to detach my 
mind from all objects and to plunge it into the heart of 
the Atman. But despite all my efforts, I could not cross 
the realm of name and form and lead my spirit to the 
Unconditional state. I had no difficulty in detaching my 
mind from all objects with the one exception of the too 
familiar form of the radiant Mother, 18 the essence of pure 
knowledge, who appeared before me as a living reality. 
She barred the way to the beyond. I tried on several 
occasions to concentrate my mind on the precepts of the 
Adviata Vedanta ; but each time the form of the Mother 
intervened. I said to Tota Puri in despair, ' It is no good. 
I shall never succeed in lifting my spirit to the " uncon- 
ditional " state and find myself face to face with the Atman/ 
He replied severely, ' What ! You say you cannot ? You 
must I ' Looking about him, he found a piece of glass. He 
took it and stuck the point between my eyes, saying, ' Con- 
centrate your mind on that point/ Then I began to 
meditate with all my might, and as soon as the gracious 
form of the Divine Mother appeared, I used my discrimin- 
ation as a sword, 19 and I clove Her in two. The last barrier 
fell and my spirit immediately precipitated itself beyond 
the plane of ' conditional ' things, and I lost myself in the 
Samadhi" 
 
The door of the Inaccessible was only forced with great 
strain and infinite suffering. But hardly had Ramakrishna 
crossed the threshold than he attained the last stage the 
Nirvikalpa Satnadhi wherein subject and object alike 
disappeared. > 
 
" Always Kali, the Beloved. 
 
lf This is not a case of the clumsy auto-hypnotism of the hen, 
who falls into a catalepsy along a chalk line in the sun (thus I read 
the disrespectful thought of my Western reader). The action of 
mind described by Ramakrishna was an effort of severe concentra- 
tion, which excluded nothing, but which involved keen and critical 
analysis. 
 

35

 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
" The Universe was extinguished. Space itself was no 
more. At first the shadows of ideas floated in the obscure 
depths of the mind. Monotonously a feeble consciousness 
of the Ego went on ticking. Then that stopped too. Noth- 
ing remained but Existence. The soul was lost in Self. 
Dualism was blotted out. Finite and Infinite space were as 
one. Beyond word, beyond thought, he attained Brahman/ ' 
 
In one day he had realized what it had taken Tota Puri 
forty years to attain. The ascetic was astounded by the 
experience he had provoked, and regarded with awe the 
body of Ramakrishna, rigid as a corpse for days on end, 
radiating the sovereign serenity of the spirit, which has 
reached the end of all knowledge. 
 
Tota Puri ought only to have stayed three days. He 
remained eleven months for intercourse with the disciple 
who had outstripped his master. Their parts were now 
reversed. The young bird came down from a higher region 
of the sky, whence he had seen beyond the loftiest circle 
of hills. His dilated pupils carried a wider vision than the 
sharp narrow eyes of the old " naga." 20 The eagle taught 
the serpent in his turn. 
 
This did not come about without considerable opposition. 
 
Let us put the two seers face to face. 
 
Ramakrishna was a small brown man with a short beard 
and beautiful eyes, " long dark eyes, full of light, obliquely 
set and slightly veiled, 81 never very wide open, but seeing 
half-closed a great distance both outwardly and inwardly. 
His mouth was half open over his white teeth in a bewitch- 
ing smile, 22 at once affectionate and mischievous. Of 
medium height, he was thin to emaciation and extremely 
delicate. 28 His temperament was exceptionally highly 
strung, for he was super-sensitivfc to all the winds of joy 
and sorrow, both moral and physical. He was indeed a 
living reflection of all that happened before the mirror of 
his eyes, a two-sided minror turned both out and in. His 
unique plastic power allowed his spirit instantaneously to 
 
10 The name of the sect to which Tota Purf belonged. Naga 
also means snake. 
 
11 Mukerji. 
 
11 Mahendra Nath Gupta. 
 
if In the journeys he took afterwards with Mathur Babu he 
became tired at once. He could not walk and had to be carried. 
 
36 
 
 
 
THE TWO GUIDES TO KNOWLEDGE 
 
shape itself according to that of others without, however, 
losing its ovmfeste Burg,** the immutable and infinite centre 
of endless nobility. " His speech was Bengali of a homely 
kind . . . with a slight though delightful stammer; but 
his words held men enthralled by the wealth of spiritual 
experience, the inexhaustible store of simile and metaphor, 
the unequalled powers of observation, the bright and subtle 
humour, the wonderful catholicity of sympathy and the 
ceaseless flow of wisdom. 26 
 
Facing this Ganges with its depths and its reflections, 
its liquid surface and its currents, its windings and meanders 
and the millions of beings it bore and nourished, the other 
rose like the Rock of Gibraltar. He was very tall and 
robust, with magnificent physique, resolute and indestruct- 
ible a rock with the profile of a lion. His constitution 
and mind were of iron. He had never known illness or 
suffering, and regarded them with smiling contempt. He 
was the strong leader of men. Before adopting a wander- 
ing life he had been the sovereign head of a monastery of 
seven hundred monks in the Punjab. He was a master of 
disciplinary method which petrified as argil the flesh and 
the spirit of men. 26 It never entered his head that any- 
thing could check his sovereign will passion, danger, the 
storms of the senses, or the magic force of Divine Illusion, 
which raises the tumultuous waves of existence. To him 
Maya was something non-existent, a void, a lie, which only 
required to be denounced to vanish for ever. To Rama- 
krishna Maya itself was God, for everything was God. It 
too was one face of Brahman. Moreover when he had 
 
14 That is from the moment when he had succeeded in uniting 
all the threads of the groups of forms and destinies in their centre, 
Brahman. Until then he hail been taken by each in turn. 
 
11 The last touches of this portrait are taken from the memory 
of an eyewitness still living, Magendranath Gupta. (Cf . Prabuddha 
Bharata, March, 1927, and The Modern Review, May, 1927.) 
 
* The educational psycho-physiolog^ of our day should interest 
itself in the methods used in the exercise of meditation ; first com- 
fortable seats, then harder and harder ones, then the bare ground, 
while at the same time clothing and food are gradually reduced 
until a state of nakedness and extreme privation is reached. After 
this initiation the novices are scattered to wander through the 
country, first with companions and then alone until the last ties 
binding them to the outside world have been completely severed. 
 
37 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
reached the summit after the stormy ascent, Ramakrishna 
forgot nothing of the anguish, the transports, the accidents 
of the climb. The most insignificant pictures of his journey 
remained in his memory, registered according to their kind, 
each in its own time and place in the wonderful panorama 
of peaks. But what was there for the " naked man " to 
store up in his memory ? His mind was like himself, void 
of emotions and loves " a brain of porphyry," as an Italian 
described the greatest painter of Umbria. 27 This marble 
tablet needed to be carved by the chisel of fruitful suffering ; 
and so it came about. 
 
In spite of his great intellect, he did not understand that 
love could be one of the paths leading to God. He chal- 
lenged the experience of Ramakrishna and poured scorn on 
prayers said aloud, and on all external manifestations, such 
as music, hymns and religious dances. When he saw 
Ramakrishna at the close of the day beginning his repetition 
of the names of God to the accompaniment of clapping of 
hands, he asked with a derisive smile, " Are you making 
bread ? " 
 
But in spite of himself the charm began to work within 
him. Certain hymns sung in his companion's melodious 
voice moved him, so that hidden tears came into his eyes. 
The insidious and enervating climate of Bengal also affected 
this Punjabi, although he tried to ignore it. His relaxed 
energy could no longer keep such rigorous control over his 
emotions. There are contradictions, often unobserved by 
their owners, even in the strongest minds. This scorner 
of cults had the weakness to adore a symbol in the shape 
of fire ; for he always kept a lighted one near him. One 
day a servant came to remove some brands, and Tota Puri 
protested against such disrespect* Ramakrishna laughed, 
as only he knew how to laugh, with the gaiety of a child. 
 
" Look, look," he cried. " You also have succumbed to 
the irresistible power oi*Maya \ " 
 
Tota Puri was dumbfounded. Had he really submitted 
to the yoke of Illusion without being aware of it ? Illness 
too made his proud spirit realize its limitations. Several 
months in Bengal brought on a violent attack of dysentery. 
 
17 Pietro Pemgino, the master of Raphael. The judgment is 
Vasari's. 
 
38 
 
 
 
THE TWO GUIDES TO KNOWLEDGE 
 
He ought to have gone away, but this would have been 
running away from evil and sorrow. He grew obstinate. 
" I will not give in to my body ! " The trouble increased, 
and his spirit could no longer abstract itself. He submitted 
to treatment, but it was of no avail. The sickness grew 
more virulent with every dawn like a shadow gradually 
overcasting the day, and became so overwhelming that the 
ascetic could no longer concentrate his mind on Brahman. 
He was roused to fury by this evidence of decay, by his 
body, and went down to the Ganges to sacrifice it. But 
an invisible hand restrained him. When he had entered 
the stream he had no longer either the will or the power 
to drown himself. He came back utterly dismayed. He 
had experienced the power of Maya. It existed every- 
where, in life, in death, in the heart of pain, the Divine 
Mother ! He passed the night alone in meditation. When 
morning dawned he was a changed man. He acknowledged 
before Ramakrishna that Brahman and Shakti 28 or Maya 
are one and the same Being. The Divine Mother was 
appeased and delivered him from his illness. He bade 
farewell to the disciple who had become his master, and 
went on his way, an enlightened man. 29 
 
Afterwards Ramakrishna summed up in these words the 
double experience of Tota Puri. 
 
" When I think of the Supreme Being as inactive, neither 
creating, nor preserving, nor destroying, I call him Brah- 
man or Purusha, the impersonal God. When I think of 
Him as active, creating, preserving, destroying, I call Him 
Shakti or Maya or Prakriti,* the personal God. But the 
distinction between them does not mean a difference. The 
personal and the impersonal are the same Being, in the 
same way as milk and ks whiteness, or the diamond and 
its lustre, or the serpent and its undulations. It is impos- 
 
i Shakti means Divine Energy, the radiance of Brahman. 
 
M The departure of Tota Puri took fJlace towards the end of 1865. 
It is possible that it was he who gave to the son of Khudiram the 
famous name of Ramakrishna that he bears to-day, when he initiated 
him as a Sannyasin. (Cf. Saradananda : Sadhaka Bhava, p. 285. 
Note I.) 
 
Prakriti is " Energy, the Soul of Nature, the power of the will 
to act in the Universe." (Definition of Aurobindo Ghose, who puts 
it in opposition to the " silent and inactive Purusha") 
 
39 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
able to conceive of the one without the other. The Divine 
Mother and Brahman are one." 31 
 
91 Compare this text with another, less known but still more 
striking, showing what should be our judgment of the impassioned 
cult of JRamakrishna for Kali, and the profound sense of Unity 
underlying this apparent idolatry. 
 
" Kali is none other than He whom you call Brahman. Kali is 
Primitive Energy (Shakti). When it is inactive we call it Brahman 
(literally : we call That . . .). But when it has the function of 
creating, preserving or destroying, we call That Shakti or Kali. 
He whom you call Brahman, She whom I call Kali, are no more 
different from each other than fire and its action of burning. If 
you think of the one, you automatically think of the other. To 
accept Kali is to accept Brahman. To accept Brahman is to accept 
Kali. Brahman and His power are identical. That is what I call 
Shakti or Kali." 
 
(Conversations of Ramakrishna with Naren (Vivekananda) and 
Mahendra Nath Gupta, on the subject of the theories of Sankara 
and of Ramanuja published in the Vedanta Kesari, November, 1916.) 
 
 
 
40 
 
 
 
IV 
 
IDENTITY WITH THE ABSOLUTE 
 
THIS great thought was by no means new. The spirit, 
of India had been nourished upon it for centuries 
and in their course it had been constantly moulded, kneaded, 
and rolled out by Vedantic philosophy. It had been the 
subject of interminable discussions between the two great 
Vedantic schools, that of Sankara the pure Advaita school 
and the Ramanuja or Visistadviata school (qualified 
monism). 1 The first, the absolute non-Dualist, considers 
the Universe unreal and the Absolute the only reality; 
the second, relatively non-Dualist, recognizes Brahman as 
 
1 It is impossible to give here a full explanation of the deep and 
often complicated system of Vedantic metaphysics. But it may 
be useful to give a brief summary of the two principal systems. 
 
Sankara, the greatest name in Indian philosophy, lived in the 
second half of the eighth century A.D. He was the genius of the 
Brahmanic spirit working in antagonism to the Buddhist, although 
it was not free from traces of the latter. He professed absolute 
Monism, the unique reality of Brahman- Atman, the " without 
second " (Advaita), the only Substance, one can hardly say the 
only Cause, since its apparent effects the visible world and indi- 
vidual souls are nothing but phenomenal illusory modifications. 
It is useless to seek, as do the Buddhists, for the conquest of the 
Absolute in stages, since all motion of the individual spirit is equal 
to zero. It is in one movement that the veil can and ought to fall 
in order to allow the Unity to shine forth. Formidable though 
this abyss of the One is wherein the world disappears, it has had an 
unparalleled fascination for the spirit of India, whose mirror is 
Sankara. * 
 
But only a select band of thinkers can fully realize this Himalayan 
ideal of an impersonal Absolute. The individual soul yearns to 
vindicate its reality. After the undivided triumph of the teaching 
of Sankara throughout the ninth and tenth centuries, religious revolt 
raised its standard in the eleventh century in the Tamil. It spread 
to Kashmir and thence to Southern India, where it found an undis- 
puted leader in Ramanuja, the pontiff or saint (Alvar) of the patri- 
 
41 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
we nibble at Its outer shell, but there is a- point of fusion 
when It takes us again into Its great mouth and absorbs 
us into Itself. But before that point of fusion is reached 
where was the salt doll ? Where do the ants come from ? 
In the case of the worker under the lamp, saintly hermit 
or forger, where is his home, where is the object he reads 
and his eyesight itself ? 
 
Ramaknshna tells us that even the inspired Holy Scrip- 
tures have all been more or less defiled because they have 
passed through human mouths. But is the defilement 
real ? (For it presupposes the purity, the Brahman.) 
Where do the lips and the mouth exist, which have eaten 
some portions of Divine food ? 
 
The "Differentiated," although it is "without attach- 
ments," must then be some part of the " Undifferentiated " 
especially since " attachment " in the last resort, " union 
between the ' Undifferentiated ' and the ' Differentiated ' 
is, to use Ramakrishna's own words, " the real object of 
the Vedanta." * 
 
In fact Ramaknshna 5 distinguishes two distinct planes 
and stages of vision : that under the sign of Maya, which 
creates the reality of the " differentiated " universe, and 
the super-vision of perfect contemplation (Samadhi) wherein 
one instant's contact with the Infinite is sufficient to make 
the Illusion of all " differentiated " egos, our own and 
other men's, disappear immediately. But Ramakrishna 
expressly maintains that it is absurd to pretend that the 
world is unreal so long as we form part of it, and receive 
from it for the maintenance of our own identity, the 
 
4 It is to be noted in passing how the metaphysics of the Advaitic 
Absolute are akin to the doctrines of the pre-Socratian Greeks 
to the doctrine of the " Indeterminate " of Anaximander of Ionia 
for instance, wherein he laid down that all things have been produced 
by separation to the doctrine of the One without Second of Xeno- 
phanes and the Eleates, who* exclude all movement, all change, all 
future, all multiplicity as nothing but Illusion. There is much 
research still to be done before the unbroken chain of thought 
linking the first pioneers of Hellenic philosophy to those of India 
is re-established. 
 
For this I rely upon the Interviews of 1882, when he was near 
the end of his life and which therefore contain the essence of his 
thought. 
 
44 
 
 
 
IDENTITY WITH THE ABSOLUTE 
 
unquenchable conviction (although hidden in our own lan- 
tern) of its reality. Even the saint who comes down from 
Samadhi (ecstasy) to the plane of ordinary life is forced 
to return to the envelope of his " differentiated " ego, 
however attenuated and purified. He is flung back into 
the world of relativity. " So far as his ego is relatively 
real to him, so far will this world also be real ; but when 
his ego has been purified, he sees the whole world of 
phenomena as the manifold manifestation of the Absolute 
to the senses." 
 
Maya will then appear under its true colours, at once 
truth and falsehood, knowledge and ignorance (Vidya and 
Avidya), everything that leads to God, and everything 
that does not lead to Him. Therefore it is. 
 
And his assertion has the personal value of a St. Thomas 
the Apostle, who has both seen and touched, when he 
bears witness to these Vijnanis, these men of super- 
knowledge who win the privilege of " realizing " in this 
life the personal and the impersonal God for he was one 
himself. 
 
They have seen God both outwardly and inwardly. He 
has revealed Himself to them. The personal God has 
told them, " I am the Absolute. I am the origin of 
' differentiation/ " In the essence of Divine Energy 
radiating from the Absolute they have perceived the very 
principle differentiating the supreme Atman and the 
universe, that which is alike in the Absolute God and in 
Maya. Maya, Shakti, Prakriti, Nature is no Illusion. To 
the purified ego She is the manifestation of the supreme 
Atman, the august sower of living souls and of the 
universe. 
 
From that moment everything became plain. The 
visionary hurled back from the gulf on fire with Brahman, 
discovered with rapture that on the brink the Divine 
Mother, his Beloved, was awaiting him. And he saw 
Her now with new eyes, for he had grasped her deep 
significance, Her identity with the Absolute. She was 
the Absolute manifesting Herself to men, the Impersonal 
made man or rather woman. 6 She was the source of all 
 
In India the personal God is conceived also as a female principle : 
Prakriti, Shakti. 
 
45 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
Incarnations, the Divine Intercessor between the Infinite 
and the finite. 7 
 
Then Ramakrishna intoned the Canticle of the Divine 
Mother. 
 
" Yea ! My Divine Mother is none other than the 
Absolute. She is at the same time the One and the Many, 
and beyond the One and the Many. My Divine Mother 
says, ' I am the Mother of the Universe, I am the Brahman 
of the Vedanta, I am the Atman of the Upanishads. It is 
I, Brahman, who created differentiation. Good and bad 
works alike obey me. The Law of Karma 8 in truth exists ; 
but it is I who am the Lawgiver. It is I who make and 
unmake laws. I order all Karma, good and bad. Come 
to Me ! Either through Love (Bhakti), through Knowledge 
 
T Compare the part of the Son in Christian mysticism. 
 
" Effulgence of my glory, Son Beloved (It is God who speaks) 
Son, in whose face invisible is beheld 
Visibly, what by Deity I am, 
And in whose hand what by decree I do, 
Second Omnipotence I . . ." 
 
(Milton, Paradise Lost, VI, 680.) 
 
This might have been said by Ramakrishna with the exception 
perhaps of the word " second," which makes the expression sub- 
ordinate to the Supreme Will creating it. But both of them are 
the same Omnipotence. The God of Milton, like the Brahman of 
Ramakrishna, being the Absolute, not manifest, could not act ; 
He wished and it was the Son who was the Creator God, the acting 
God (as was the Mother in the case of Ramakrishna). The Son is 
the Word, He speaks, He dies, He is born, He is made manifest. 
The Absolute is the invisible God. 
 
" Fountain of light, Thyself invisible. . . ." 
 
(Paradise Lost, III, 374.) 
 
He is impalpable and inconceivable. He is immovable and 
nevertheless omnipresent ; for he is im all things : 
 
" The Filial Power arrived, and sat him down 
With his great Father ; for he also went 
Invisible, yet stayed (such privilege 
Hath Omnipresence) . . ." 
 
(Paradise Lost, VII, 588.) 
 
(Cf. Denis Saurat : Milton and Material Christianity in England, 
1928.) The similarity of the mysticisms is obvious and natural. 
Both had their origin in the East, and both came from the same 
human brain with its limited operation. 
 
1 Action the generating power of successive existences. 
 
 
 
IDENTITY WITH THE ABSOLUTE 
 
(Jnana) or through Action (Karma), for all lead to God. 
I will lead you through this world, the Ocean of action. 
And if you wish it, I will give you the knowledge of the 
Absolute as well. You cannot escape from Me. Even 
those who have realized the Absolute in Samadki return to 
Me at My will/ My Divine Mother is the primordial 
Divine Energy. She is omnipresent. She is both the 
outside and the inside of visible phenomena. She is the 
parent of the world, and the world carries Her in its heart. 
She is the Spider and the world is the web She has spun. 
The Spider draws the thread out of Herself and then winds 
it round Herself. My Mother is at the same time the 
container and the contained. 9 She is the shell, but She is 
also the kernel/ 1 
 
The elements of this ardent Credo are borrowed from 
the ancient sources of India. Ramakrishna and his fol- 
lowers never claimed that the thought was new. 10 The 
Master's genius was of another order. He roused from 
lethargy the Gods slumbering in thought and made them 
incarnate. He awoke the springs in the " sleeping wood " n 
and warmed them with the heat of his magic personality. 
And so this ardent Credo is his own in its accent and its 
transport, in its rhythm and melody, in its song of passionate 
love. 12 
 
The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, according to M., a son of the 
Lord and a disciple. (In the Life of Vivekananda, last edition, 
1922-24.) 
 
10 On the contrary their tendency was to deny the fact, even 
when they might have claimed originality. The great religious 
minds of modern India, and, I believe, of all other countries, have 
this in common, that their very power lies in the assurance that 
their truth is a very ancient one, and eternal verity, the Verity. 
Dayananda, the stern founder of the Arya Samaj, was very angry 
if new ideas were attributed to him. 
 
11 An allusion to the title of the well-known fairy story, " The 
Sleeping Beauty." 
 
(The French title is : La Belle au Bois Dormant, and its literal 
translation is : the Beauty in the Sleeping Wood. TRANSLATOR.) 
 
11 It must not be forgotten that its poetic and musical elements 
are in part borrowed from the popular treasures of Bengal. We have 
seen (p. 9) how his mind had been impregnated with the classical 
Vaishnavite poets through their adaptations in the jatras or popular 
theatrical representations. He often sung a hymn from the works 
of Kabir, but his mind was also stored with the works of more 
 
47 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
Listen closely to it, for it is a magnificent. song, illimitable 
and yet harmonious. It is not confined within the form 
of any poetic measure, but it falls of itself into an ordered 
beauty and delight. Adoration of the Absolute is united 
without effort to the passionate love of Maya. Let us keep 
in our ears its cry of love until we can measure its depth 
later by listening to Vivekananda. The great fighter, 
caught in the toils of Maya, tried to break them, and he 
and she were constantly at war. Such a state was com- 
pletely foreign to Ramakrishna. He was at war with 
nothing. He loved his enemy as a lover, and nothing 
could resist his charm. His enemy ended by loving him. 
Maya enfolded him in Her arms. Their lips met. Armide 
had found her Renaud. 18 The Circe who bewitched crowds 
of other suitors became for him the Ariadne who led Theseus 
by the hand through the mazes of the labyrinth. Illusion, 
the all-powerful, who hoods the eyes of the falcon, unhooded 
Ramakrishna's and threw him from Her wrist into the 
wide regions of the air. Maya is the Mother 14 who reveals 
 
recent poets and musicians. (Cf. The Gospel of Ramakrishna.) One 
of the oldest and one for whom he seems to have had a particular 
affection was Rama Prasad, a poet of the eighteenth century. 
Ramakrishna constantly quoted and sang his sacred hymns to the 
Divine Mother. It was to Prasad that Ramakrishna owed some of 
his most striking metaphors (that of the flying kite, for example, 
mentioned later) and some characteristic traits of the Mother (the 
mischievous twinkle in the corner of Her eye, when She made use 
of Illusion to bewilder the child She loved). 
 
Among the other poet-musicians mentioned in the Gospel I note 
the names of Kamalakanta, a pandit of the beginning of the nine- 
teenth century, a devotee of the Mother ; Nareschandra, belonging 
to the same period, also a devotee of Kali ; Kubir, a Bengal Vaish- 
navite saint of the same epoch, author of popular songs ; and among 
the more recent, Premdas (his real name was Trailokya Sannyal) a 
disciple of Keshab, author of songs, which often owed their inspira- 
tion to the improvisations of Ramakrishna, and Girish Chandra 
Ghosh, the great dramatist, who became Ramakrishna's disciple 
(songs from his plays, Chailanya-lila, Buddha-charity, etc.). 
 
11 Allusion to the characters of Torquato Tasso's poem, Jerusalem 
Delivered. 
 
14 Or the " eldest sister." Elsewhere Ramakrishna said to Keshab 
Chundra Sen, " Maya is created by the Divine Mother, as forming 
part of her plan of the universe." The Mother plays with the world. 
The world is Her toy. " She le ~ 
 
 
 
lets slip the flying kite of the soul, 
held by the string of illusion " (October, 1882). 
 
48 
 
 
 
IDENTITY WITH THE ABSOLUTE 
 
Herself to Her children through the various forms of Her 
splendour and by Divine Incarnations. With Her love, 
with the fire of Her heart (Bhakti) She moulds the sheath 
of the ego so well that it becomes no more than " something 
that has length but no breadth/' a line, a point, which melts 
under the magic fingers of this subtle refiner into Brahman. 
 
So praised be the fingers and the water ! Praised be 
the face and the veil ! All things are God. God is in all 
things. He is in the shadow as well as in the light. Inspired 
by the English " Mortalists " of the seventeenth century, 16 
Hugo said that the Sun is only the shadow of God. 16 
Ramakrishna would have said that the shadow is also light. 
 
But it is because like all true Indian thinkers he believes 
in nothing that he has not first " realized " throughout his 
entire being that his thought has the breath of life. The 
" conception " of the idea regains with him its plain 
and carnal meaning. To believe is to embrace, and after 
the embrace to treasure within oneself the ripening fruit. 
 
When a Ramakrishna has once known the grasp of such 
truths, they do not remain within him as ideas. They 
quicken into life ; and fertilized by his Credo, they flourish 
and come to fruition in an orchard of " realizations," no 
longer abstract and isolated, but clearly defined and having 
a practical bearing on everyday life for the satisfaction of 
the hunger of men. He will find the Divine Flesh, which 
he has tasted and which is the substance of the universe 
again, the same, at all tables and all religions. And he 
will share the food of immortality in a Lord's Supper, not 
with twelve apostles, but with all starving souls with the 
 
universe. 
 
* * * 
 
After the departure ofr Tota Puri towards the end of 
1865 Ramakrishna remained for more than six months 
within the magic circle, the circle of fire, and prolonged 
his identity with the Absolute until the limit of physical 
endurance had been reached. For six months, if such a 
statement is credible, he remained in a state of cataleptic 
 
1 Denis Saurat : Milton and Christian Materialism in England, 
p. 52. 
 
Cf. Milton, " Dark with excessive light thy skirts appear." 
 
(Paradise Lost, III, 374.) 
 
49 E 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
ecstasy, recalling the descriptions given of the fakirs of 
old the body, deserted by the spirit like an empty house, 
given over to destructive forces. If it had not been for a 
nephew, who watched over the masterless body and 
nourished its forces, he would have died. 17 It was impossible 
to go further in ecstatic union with the " formless." It is, 
moreover, the extreme period of this long Yogic trance 
which is likely to puzzle, nay, to irritate my French readers, 
who are used to treading on firm earth, and have not 
experienced the shocks of spiritual fires for a long time. 
Patience for a little while longer 1 We shall come down 
from the Mount of Sinai down among men. 
 
Ramakrishna himself recognized afterwards that he had 
been tempting Providence and that it was a miracle that 
he had ever returned. He was careful to warn his disciples 
against submitting to any such test. He even forbade it 
to Vivekananda, on the ground that it was a form of 
pleasure forbidden to those noble souls, whose duty it was 
to sacrifice their own happiness to the service of others. 18 
 
17 It is said that a monk who happened to come to Dakshineswar 
at that time, seeing him on the point of breathing his last, recalled 
his escaping life with blows. 
 
The great disciple, Saradananda, the most learned in Hindu 
metaphysics, and more deeply versed in the intellectual make-up of 
his Master than any who came near Ramakrishna, has described 
this Nirvikalpa Samadhi, this great ecstasy of six months, as a 
state where the consciousness of the ego disappeared completely, 
coming back now and again very gently, just veiling the perfect 
" realization." According to Saradananda, Ramakrishna would 
perceive in these moments of semi-consciousness the order of the 
Cosmic Spirit (or we may style it, the obscure recall and tyranny 
of the vital force) " which forced him to remain in the Bhavamukha." 
It said in effect, " Do not lose complete consciousness of the ego, 
and do not identify thyself with the*transcendental Absolute, but 
realize that the Cosmic ego, wherein are born the infinite modes of 
the universe, is within thee ; at every moment of thy life, see and 
do good in the world." 
 
And so it was during the descent from this long Samadhi that 
Ramakrishna came to " realize " his divine mission, not perhaps in 
a single day or suddenly, but gradually. In any case it would be 
in the first half of 1866. 
 
11 How much more then did he dissuade ordinary men from it ; 
for those whose bed in life is a narrow one, would have been sub- 
merged by its torrents to their own hurt and the hurt of the com- 
munity. The way he cured his Sancho Panza, his young nephew, 
 
50 
 
 
 
IDENTITY WITH THE ABSOLUTE 
 
When young Naren 19 importuned him to open to him the 
Niroikalpa Samadhi the terrible door leading to the gulf 
of the Absolute Ramakrishna refused with anger, he, 
who never lost his temper and who was always careful 
not to hurt the feelings of his beloved son. " Shame on 
you ! " he cried, " I thought you were to be the great 
banyan tree giving shelter to thousands of tired souls. 
Instead you are selfishly seeking your own well-being. 
Let these little things alone, my child. How can you be 
satisfied with so one-sided an ideal ? You might be all- 
sided. Enjoy the Lord in all ways ! " (By this he meant 
both in contemplation and in action, so that he might translate 
the highest knowledge into the highest service of mankind.) 
Naren wept, humiliated and heartbroken with the duty 
of renunciation. He acknowledged that the Master's 
severity was just, but to the end of his life he carried a 
sick longing in his heart for the Abysmal God, although 
he devoted that life with humility, hardihood and courage 
to the service of man. 
 
the faithful and matter of fact Hridoy, and his rich patron, Mathur 
Babu, of their longing for the forbidden fruits of ecstasy, shows a 
humour and good sense worthy of Cervantes. 
 
Hridoy, a good soul and devoted to his uncle but of the earth 
earthy, desired to share his uncle's fame. He thought he had a 
family right to benefit from the spiritual advantages of Rama- 
krishna. He had no patience with the latter 's disinterestedness. 
In vain his uncle tried to dissuade him from experimenting in 
ecstasy. The other persisted, with the result that his brain became 
completely disordered and he had attacks of convulsions and scream- 
ing. " Oh Mother," cried Ramakrishna, " dull the sense of this 
idiot 1 " Hridoy fell to the ground and overwhelmed his uncle 
with reproaches. " What have you done, uncle ? I shall never 
experience these ineffable joys again." Ramakrishna maliciously 
let him alone to do as he pleased. Hridoy was soon visited by 
frightful visions and was obliged to ask his uncle to deliver him. 
 
The same experience befell the rich Mathur Babu. He longed 
for Ramakrishna to procure the Samadhi for him. Ramakrishna 
refused for a long time, but at last he said, " Very well, so be it, 
my friend." As a result of the coveted Samadhi, Mathur Babu 
lost all interest and sense in business. This was more than he 
had bargained for ; he became very anxious, and wished to go no 
further in the matter, so he besought Ramakrishna to remove 
ecstasy from him for ever. Ramakrishna smiled and cured him. 
 
19 Narendranath Dutt, the real name of the man who was after- 
wards called Vivekananda. 
 
51 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
But we must remember that at the point we have reached 
in our story, Ramakrishna had not yet finished his Lehrjahre, 
his apprenticeship. It is also noteworthy that his life's 
experience was won at his own risk and expense, and not 
by common experience, as is partly at least the case with 
most of us. 
 
His recovery was not due to his own merits or his own 
desire. He said that the Mother recalled him to a sense 
of his human duties by physical suffering. He was gradu- 
ally forced back from the Nirvikalpa Samadhi by a violent 
attack of dysentery, which lasted for six months. 
 
Both physical and moral suffering attached him to the 
earth. A monk, who knew him, 20 has said that during 
the first days of his return from ecstasy to the bosom of 
identity, he howled with pain when he saw two boatmen 
quarrelling angrily. He came to identify himself with the 
sorrows of the whole world, however impure and murderous 
they might be, until his heart was scored with scars. But 
he knew that even the differences leading to strife among 
men are the daughters of the same Mother ; that the 
" Omnipotent Differentiation " is the face of God Himself ; 
that he must love God in all sorts and conditions of men, 
however antagonistic and hostile, and in all forms of 
thought controlling their existence and often setting them 
at variance the one with the other. Above all he must 
love God in all their Gods. 
 
In short he recognized that all religions lead by different 
paths to the same God. Hence he was eager to explore 
them all ; for with him comprehension meant existence 
and action. 
 
* (Cf. D. G. Mukerji : The Face of Silence.) 
 
 
 
THE RETURN TO MAN 
 
THE first path to be explored was the religion of Islam. 
He was hardly convalescent when he started out 
upon it at the end of 1866. 
 
From his temple he saw many Musulman fakirs passing 
by ; for the large-hearted patron of Dakshineswar, Rani 
Rasmani, a nouvclle riche of a debased caste, in the breadth 
of her piety had desired rooms to be reserved in her 
foundation for passing guests of all religions. In this way 
Ramakrishna saw a humble Musulman, Govinda Rai, 
absorbed in his prayers, and perceived through the outward 
shell of his prostrate body that this man through Islam had 
also " realized " God. He asked Govinda Rai to initiate 
him, and for several days the priest of Kali renounced and 
forgot his own Gods completely. He did not worship them, 
he did not even think about them. He lived outside the 
temple precincts, he repeated the name of Allah, he wore 
the robes of a Musulman and was ready imagine the 
sacrilege to eat of forbidden food, even of the sacred animal, 
the cow ! His master and patron, Mathur Babu, was hor- 
rified and begged him to desist. In secret he had food pre- 
pared for Ramakrishna by a Brahmin under the direction 
of a Musulman in order to save him from defilement. The 
complete surrender of himself to another realm of thought 
resulted as always in the spiritual voyage of this passionate 
artist, in a visual materialization of the idea. A radiant 
personage with grave countenance and white beard appeared 
to him (thus he had probably visualized the prophet). He 
drew near and lost himself in him. Ramakrishna realized 
the Musulman God, " the Brahman with attributes.' 1 Thence 
he passed into the " Brahman without attributes/' The 
river of Islam had led him back to the Ocean. 
 
53 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
His expositors have later interpreted this experience, 
following as it did immediately upon his great ecstasy in 
the Absolute, in a very important sense for India, that 
Musulmans and Hindus, her enemy sons, can only be re- 
united on the basis of the Advaita, the formless God. The 
Ramakrishna Mission has since raised a sanctuary to Him 
in the depths of the Himalayas, as the corner-stone of the 
immense and composite edifice of all religions. 
 
Seven years later (I am grouping the facts for the sake 
of clearness) an experience of the same order led Ramakrishna 
to " realize " Christianity. Somewhere about November, 
1874, a certain Mallik, a Hindu of Calcutta, with a garden 
near Dakshineswar, read the Bible to him. For the first 
time Ramakrishna met Christ. Shortly afterwards the 
Word was made flesh. The life of Jesus secretly pervaded 
him. One day when he was sitting in the room of a friend, 
a rich Hindu, he saw on the wall a picture representing the 
Madonna and Child. The figure became alive. Then the 
expected came to pass according to the invariable order of 
the spirit ; the holy visions came close to him and entered 
into him so that his whole being was impregnated with 
them. This time the inflowing was much more powerful 
than in the case of Islam. It covered his entire soul, 
breaking down all barriers. Hindu ideas were swept away. 
In terror Ramakrishna, struggling in the midst of the waves, 
cried out, " Oh Mother, what are you doing ? Help me ! " 
It was in vain. The tidal race swept everything before it. 
The spirit of the Hindu was changed. He had no room 
for anything but Christ. For several days he was filled by 
Christian thought and Christian love. He no longer thought 
of going to the temple. Then one afternoon in the grove 
of Dakshineswar he saw coining towards him a person with 
beautiful large eyes and a serene regard. Although he 
did not know who it was, he succumbed to the charm of 
his unknown guest. He drew near and a voice sang in 
the depths of Ramakrishna's soul, 
 
" Behold the Christ, who shed his heart's blood for the 
redemption of the world, who suffered a sea of anguish 
for love of men. It is He, the master Yogin, who is in 
eternal union with God. It is Jesus, Love incarnate." 
 
The Son of Man embraced the seer of India, the son of 
 
54 
 
 
 
THE RETURN TO MAN 
 
the Mother, and absorbed him into Himself. Ramakrishna 
was lost in ecstasy. Once again he realized union with 
Brahmin. Then gradually he came down to earth, but 
from that time he believed in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, 
the Incarnate God. 1 But for him Christ was not the only 
Incarnation. Buddha and Krishna were others. 
 
At this point I can imagine our uncompromising Chris- 
tians, body-guards of their one God, raising their eyebrows 
haughtily, and saying, 
 
" But what did he know of our God ? This was a vision, 
a figment of the imagination. This was too easy, for he 
knew nothing of the doctrine." 
 
He did in truth know very little, but he was a Bhakta, 
who believed through love. He did not claim to possess 
the knowledge of the Jnanins, who believed through the 
intellect. But when the bow is firmly held, does not each 
of the two arrows reach the same target ? And do not 
both roads meet for the man who journeys to the very end ? 
Vivekananda, Ramakrishna's great and learned disciple, said 
of him, 
 
" Outwardly he was Bhakta but inwardly Jnanin.* At 
a certain pitch of intensity great love comprehends and great 
intellect forces the retreats of the heart. Moreover it is 
surely not for Christians to deny the power of love. It 
was love that made the humble fishermen of Galilee the 
chosen disciples of their God and the founders of his Church. 
And to whom did the risen Christ first appear but to the re- 
pentant sinner, whose only claim to the privilege lay in the 
 
1 He used the title very sparingly, however. He had a great 
veneration for saintly men, such as the Tirthankaras (the founders 
of the Jain religion), and the ten Sikh Gurus, but without believ- 
ing that they were Incarnations. In his own home amongst his 
Divine pictures was one of Christ, and he burnt incense before it 
morning and evening. Later it came to pass that Indian Christians 
recognized in him a direct manifestation of the Christ and went 
into ecstasy before him. 
 
1 And Vivekananda added, " But with me it is quite the con- 
trary." Another very great religious thinker of India, also a highly 
intellectual man, more deeply imbued with European thought than 
any of his contemporaries, Keshab Chunder Sen, had the noble 
humility to sit at the feet of the Bhakta, whose intuition of heart 
enlightened for Him the spirit underlying the letter. 
 
55 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
tears of love wherewith she had washed the feet of Christ 
and dried them with her hair ? ' ' 
 
Lastly, knowledge does not consist in the number of books 
a man has read. In Ramakrishna's India, as in the India 
of old, culture is largely transmitted orally, and Ramakrishna 
gained during the course of his life through intercourse with 
thousands of monks, pilgrims, pandits, and all sorts of men 
preoccupied with religious problems, an encyclopaedic know- 
ledge of religion and religious philosophy, a knowledge 
constantly deepened by meditation. 3 " One day a disciple 
wondering at his knowledge asked him, ' How were you 
able to master all past knowledge ? ' And Ramakrishna 
answered, ' I have not read, I have heard the learned. I 
have made a garland of their knowledge wearing it round 
my neck, and I have given it as an offering at the feet of 
the Mother/ " 
 
He could say to his disciples, 
 
" I have practised all religions, Hinduism, Islam, Chris- 
tianity, and I have also followed the paths of the different 
Hindu sects. ... I have found that it is the same God 
towards whom all are directing their steps, though along 
different paths. You must try all beliefs and traverse all 
the different ways once. 4 Wherever I look I see men 
quarrelling in the name of religion Hindus, Mohammedans, 
Brahmins, Vaishnavas and the rest, but they never reflect 
that He who is called Krishna is also called Shiva, and 
bears the name of Primitive Energy, Jesus and Allah as 
well the same Rama with a thousand names. The tank 
has several ghats (flights of steps). At one Hindus draw 
water in pitchers, and call it jal ; at another Musulmans 
draw water in leathern bottles, and call it pani ; at a third 
Christians, and call it water. Gan we imagine that the 
water is not jal, but only pani or water 1 How ridiculous ! 
The substance is One under different names and everyone 
is seeking the same Substance ; nothing but climate, tem- 
 
* Ramakrishna understood Sanskrit though he could not speak 
it. He said, " In my childhood I could gather all that the Sadhus 
were reading in the house of a neighbouring family, even though it 
is true that the sense of individual words escaped me. If a pandit 
spoke in Sanskrit I understood him, but I could not speak it my- 
self." Gospel, II, 17. 
 
4 Gospel of Ramakrishna, II, 17. 
 
56 
 
 
 
THE RETURN TO MAN 
 
perament and name vary. 5 Let each man foUow his own 
path. If he sincerely and ardently wishes to know God, 
peace be unto him ! He will surely realize Him." 
 
The period after 1867 added nothing vital to Ramakrishna's 
inner store, 6 but he learnt to use what he had treasured. 
His revelations were brought into contact with the outside 
world and his spiritual conquests were confronted with the 
achievements of other human experience and he realized 
more fully the unique prize that had been awarded him. 
It was during these years that he came to a knowledge of 
his mission among men and his present duty of action. 
 
He resembles the Little Poor Man of Assisi in many ways 
both moral and physical. He too was the tender brother 
of everything that lives and dies, and had drunk so deep 
of the milk of loving kindness that he could not be satisfied 
with a happiness he could not share with others. On the 
threshold of his deepest ecstasies he prayed to the Mother 
as She was drawing him to Herself, 
 
" Oh Mother, let me remain in contact with men ! Do 
not make me a dried-up ascetic ! " 
 
And the Mother, as She drew him back to the shores of 
life from the depths of the Ocean, replied (half consciously 
he heard Her voice), 
 
" Stay on the threshold of relative consciousness for the 
love of humanity." 7 
 
And so he returned to the world of men and his first 
experience was a bath of warm and simple humanity. In 
May, 1867, sti U much enfeebled by the crises he had passed 
through, he went to rest for six or seven months in his own 
countryside of Kamarpukur after an absence of eight years. 8 
 
*Ibid., II, 248. 
 
6 Except for his Christian* experience, which I have described 
in the previous pages in its logical place, though it belongs chrono- 
logically to the year 1874. 
 
7 From that time he resisted all temptation to seek an ecstatic 
death and avoided its dangers. He refused to run the risk of cer- 
tain dangerous emotions, such as the sight of a holy place, Gaya, 
in 1868, because it was too full of memories and he knew that he 
would not be able to bring his spirit back to the plane of ordinary 
life. He had received the order from within to stay in the world 
of everyday things in order to help others. 
 
The Bhairavi Brahmani accompanied him, but the experiences 
of the journey do not rebound to her credit. This eminent woman's 
 
57 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
He gave himself up with the joy of a chilcj to the familiar 
cordiality of the good people of the village, happy at the 
sight of their little Gandahar, whose strange fame had 
reached them and made them rather anxious. And these 
simple peasants were nearer by their very simplicity to the 
profundity of his beliefs than the doctors of the towns and 
the devotees of the temples. 
 
During this visit he learned to know his child wife. Sarada 
Devi was now fourteen years old. She lived with her parents, 
but she came to Kamarpukur when she knew her husband 
had arrived. The spiritual development of the little wife 
with her pure heart was greater than her age, and she 
understood at once her husband's mission and the part of 
pious affection and tender disinterestedness she was to play 
in it. She recognized him as her guide and put herself at 
his service. 
 
Ramakrishna has at times been blamed, and very coarsely 
blamed, fl for having sacrificed her. She herself never showed 
any trace of it ; she irradiated peace and serenity throughout 
her life on all who came in contact with her. Moreover, there 
is a fact, which has never before been revealed except by 
Vivekananda, that Ramakrishna himself was gravely aware 
of his responsibility and offered his wife the greatest sacrifice 
of which he was capable if she demanded it his mission. 
 
" I have learnt/' he said to her, " to look upon every 
woman as Mother. That is the only idea I can have about 
 
character was not equal to her intelligence, and her meditations 
had not raised her above human weaknesses. Having taught Rama- 
krishna and revealed him to himself, she claimed proprietory rights 
over him. She had already suffered from the ascendancy of Tota 
Puri, and she could not bear to see him re-absorbed in the atmo- 
sphere of his birthplace, monopolized by his old companions to 
whom she was a stranger, without ctremony. Moreover the pres- 
ence of his young wife, humble and sweet though she was, troubled 
her and she had not the tact to hide it. After some painful scenes, 
which did not make her more amiable, she recognized her weakness. 
She begged Ramakrishna's pardon and left him for ever. He met 
her again for the last time in Benares, whither she had retired to 
spend the remainder of her days in a strict search for truth. She 
died shortly afterwards. 
 
9 This was especially the case from certain Brahmo Samajists, 
who were irritated by Ramakrishna's ascendancy over their leader, 
Keshab Chunder Sen, and they could not forgive him his wide 
popularity. 
 
58 
 
 
 
THE RETURN TO MAN 
 
you. But if you wish to draw me into the world (of Illusion) , 
as I have been married to you, I am at your service." 10 
 
Here was something entirely new in the spirit of India. 
Hindu tradition lays down that a religious life ipso facto 
frees a man from every other obligation. Ramakrishna 
had more humanity and recognized that his wife had binding 
rights over him. She was, however, magnanimous enough 
to renounce them, and encouraged him in his mission. But 
Vivekananda specifically declares that it was " by consent 
of his wife " that he was free to follow the life of his choice. 
Touched by her innocence and self-sacrifice, Ramakrishna 
took upon himself the part of an elder brother. He devoted 
himself patiently during the months they were together to 
her education as a diligent wife and good manager. He 
had a great deal of practical common sense curiously at 
variance with his mystic nature. The peasant's son had been 
brought up in a good school and no detail of domestic or rural 
life was alien to him. All who knew him remarked on the order 
and cleanliness of his house, in which respect the Little Poor 
Man of God might have taught his disciples, drawn though 
they were from the intellectual and upper middle classes. 
 
He returned to Dakshineswar at the end of 1867, and in 
the course of the following year made several pilgrimages 
with Mathur Babu, his patron and the master of his temple. 
In the early months of 1868 he saw Shiva's city, Benares, 
and Allahabad at the sacred junction of the Ganges and 
the Jumna, and Brindaban, the very home of legend and 
of the Song of Songs, the scene of the Romancero pastoral 
of Krishna. His transports, his intoxication may be 
imagined. When he crossed the Ganges before Benares, 
" the city of God " seemed to him not built of stone, but 
like a heavenly Jerusalem, " a condensed mass of spiritu- 
ality/ 1 On the cremating fields of the holy city he saw 
Shiva and His white body and tawny matted locks and 
the Divine Mother bending over the funeral pyres and 
granting salvation unto the dead. When twilight fell on 
the banks of the Jumna, he met the herdsmen leading their 
cattle home, and he was carried away with emotion, and 
ran shouting, " Krishna ! Where is Krishna ? " 
 
" Vivekananda : My Master. Vol. IV of his Complete Works, 
3rd edition, 1923, p. 169, 
 
59 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
But if he did not see the God Himself, he met something 
else in the course of his travels of greater importance and 
deeper meaning for us of the West he discovered the face 
of human suffering. Up to that time he had lived in a state 
of ecstatic hypnosis within the gilded shell of his sanctuary, 
and the hair of Kali had hidden it from him. When he 
arrived at Deoghar with his rich companion, he saw its 
almost naked inhabitants, the Santhals, emaciated and dying 
of hunger : for a terrible famine was ravaging the land. 
He told Mathur Babu that he must feed these unfortunates. 
Mathur Babu objected that he was not rich enough to 
support the misery of the whole world. Ramakrishna 
thereupon sat down among the poor creatures and wept, 
declaring that he would not move from thence, but would 
share their fate. Croesus was obliged to submit and to do 
the will of his poor priest. 
 
During the summer of 1870 Mathur made the mistake of 
taking him in the course of another journey to one of his 
estates at the time of the payment of dues. The harvests 
had failed for two years running and the tenants were 
reduced to extreme misery. Ramakrishna told Mathur to 
remit their dues, to distribute help to them and to give 
them a sumptuous feast. Mathur Babu protested but Rama- 
krishna was inexorable. 
 
" You are only the steward of the Mother/' he said to 
the rich proprietor. " They are the Mother's tenants. You 
must spend the Mother's money. When they are suffering, 
how can you refuse to help them ? You must do so." 
Mathur Babu had to give in. 
 
These things should not be allowed to fall into oblivion. 
Swami Shivananda, the present head of the Ramakrishna 
Order (the Ramakrishna Math ad Mission), one of the first 
apostles and a direct disciple of the Master, has des- 
cribed the following scene, which he saw with his own 
eyes. 
 
One day at Dakshineswar, while he was in a condition 
of super-consciousness, Ramakrishna said, 
" Maya is Shiva (all living beings are God). 11 Who then 
 
11 On another occasion he said, " God is in all men, but all men 
are not in God : that is the reason why they suffer/ 1 (Sri Rama- 
krishna' s Teachings, I, 297.) 
 
60 
 
 
 
THE RETURN TO MAN 
 
dare talk of showing mercy to them ? Not mercy, but 
service, service for man must be regarded as God 1 " 
 
Vivekananda was present . When he heard those pregnant 
words, he said to Shivananda, 
 
" I have heard a great saying to-day. I will proclaim 
the living truth to the world/' 
 
And Swami Shivananda added, 
 
" If anyone asks for the foundation of the innumerable 
acts of service done by the Ramakrishna Mission since then, 
he will find it there/' 12 
 
* * * 
 
About this time several deaths left the mark of Sorrow's 
cruel, yet brotherly fingers upon Ramakrishna. Though 
a man lost in God, who regarded departure from this life 
as a return to endless bliss, he was seen on the occasion 
of the death of a young friend and nephew to laugh for 
joy and to sing his deliverance. 13 But the day after his 
death he was suddenly assailed by the most terrible anguish. 
His heart was broken, he could hardly breathe and he 
thought, 
 
" Oh God ! Oh God ! If it is thus with me, how they 
must suffer, those who lose their loved ones, their children ! " 
 
And the Mother bestowed upon him the duty and the 
power of administering the balm of faith to mourners. 
 
" Those who did not see it," Swami Shivananda wrote 
to me, " cannot imagine to what extent this man, so 
detached from the world, was constantly occupied in 
listening to the story of their worldly tribulations, poured 
out to him by men and women alike, and in lightening 
their burdens. We saw innumerable examples of it, and 
there may be some householders still living, who call down 
blessings upon him for Mis infinite pity and his ardent 
 
11 Ramakrishna set the example of the most humble service. 
He, a Brahmin, went to a pariah's house and asked permission to 
clean it. The pariah, overcome by the proposal, a criminal one in 
the eyes of an orthodox Hindu, which might have exposed his 
visitor and himself to the worst reprisals, refused to allow it. So 
Ramakrishna went to his house at night when all were asleep and 
wiped the floor with his long hair. He prayed, " Oh Mother, make 
me the servant of the pariah ! " (Vivekananda, My Master.) 
 
19 At that moment he had the vision of a sword drawn from 
the scabbard. 
 
6l 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
attempts to relieve the sufferings of men. One day in 
1883 Mani Mallick, a rich and distinguished old man, lost 
his son and came to Ramakrishna with a broken heart. 
He entered so deeply into the old man's sorrow that it 
almost seemed as if he were the bereaved father, and his 
sorrow surpassed Mallick's. Some time passed thus. 
Suddenly Ramakrishna began to sing." 
 
But not an elegy, not a funeral oration. He sang a 
heroic song, the story of the fight of the soul with death. 
 
" To arms ! To arms ! Oh Man, death invades thy 
home in battle array. Get up into the chariot of faith, 
and arm thyself with the quiver of wisdom. Draw the 
mighty bow of love and hurl, hurl the divine arrow, the 
holy name of the Mother ! " 14 
 
" And," concluded Shivananda, " I remember how the 
father's grief was assuaged by it. This song gave him 
back his courage, calmed his sorrow and brought him 
peace/' 
 
As I describe this scene my thoughts go back to our 
own Beethoven, who without saying a word came and 
sat down at the piano and consoled a bereaved mother 
with his music. 
 
This divine communion with living, loving, suffering 
humanity was to be expressed in a passionate, but pure 
and pious symbol. When in 1872 his wife came to him 
at Dakshineswar for the first time, 16 the tenderness of 
 
14 I give a fragment of this song from the Gospel of Ramakrishna. 
The scene was by no means unique. Ramakrishna consoled more 
than one mourner with more than one song. But its heroic character 
always remained the same. 
 
In the Life of Ramakrishna (pp. 652-53) the account is rather 
different. Ramakrishna listened to tne broken-hearted father ; he 
said nothing but passed into a state of semi-consciousness. Sud- 
denly he began to sing the battle hymn with energetic gestures 
and a radiant face. Then he became normal again and talked 
affectionately to the unhappy man and consoled him. 
 
D. G. Mukerji also describes the same scene as Swami Shiva- 
nanda and with his usual art. But he was not an eye-witness, 
while Shivananda and the author of the GospM were. 
 
11 She stayed with him from March, 1872, to November, 1873, 
from April, 1874, to September, 1875, again in 1882 and finally in 
1884, when she remained with him until the end. The story of 
her first journey to rejoin her husband, when she was in bad health, 
 
62 
 
 
 
THE RETURN TO MAN 
 
Ramakrishna, a tenderness compounded of religious respect 
purged of all trace of desire and sensual disturbance, 
recognized the Goddess under her veil, and he made a 
solemn avowel of it. One night in May, when everything 
had been prepared for worship, he made Sarada Devi sit 
in the seat of Kali, and as a priest he accomplished the 
ritual ceremonies, the Shorashi Puja, 16 the adoration of 
womanhood. Both of them were in a condition of semi- 
conscious or super-conscious ecstasy. When he came to 
himself he hailed his companion as the Divine Mother. 
In his eyes She was incarnate in the living symbol of 
 
immaculate humanity. 17 
 
* * * 
 
His conception of God, then, was one which grew by 
degrees, from the idea of the God who is omnipresent and 
in whom everything is absorbed, like a sun fusing every- 
thing in itself, to the warm feeling that all things are God, 
like so many little suns, in each of which He is present and 
active. Both, it is true, contain the same idea, but the 
second reverses the first, so that not only from the highest 
to the lowest, but from the lowest to the highest, there is 
a twofold chain joining without a break the one Being to 
all living Beings. Thus man becomes sacred. 
 
Two years before his death, April 5, 1884, he said, " I 
can now realize the change that has taken place in me. 
A long time ago Vaishnav Charan told me that when I 
could see God in man, I should have attained the per- 
 
and bravely accomplished with much fatigue and no little danger, 
is one of the most touching chapters in the life of Ramakrishna. 
(See Note I at the end of the volume a charming adventure, the 
meeting of Sarada Devi with the brigands.) No less extraordinary 
was her first stay of twenty Inonths and the common life led by 
the two mystics, both equally chaste and equally passionate. 
 
lf A Tantric ceremony. 
 
17 The sole witness of this strange scene was the priest from the 
neighbouring temple of Vishnu. 
 
Ramakrishna's cult of womanhood did not limit itself to his 
blameless wife. Ha recognized the Mother even in the most de- 
graded prostitutes. 1 " I myself have seen this man standing before 
these women," said Vivekananda, " and falling on his knees at 
their feet, bathed in tears, saying ' Mother, in one form Thou art 
in the street and in another form Thou art the universe. I salute 
Thee, Mother. I salute Thee/ " (My Master.) 
 
63 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
fection of knowledge. At the present moment I see that 
it is He who moves under a diversity of forms sometimes 
as a pious man, sometimes as a hypocrite, sometimes even 
as a criminal. So I say, ' Narayana in the pious man, 
Narayana in the hypocrite, Narayana in the criminal and 
the libertine.' " 18 
 
I must take up again the course of his life, so that my 
readers may not lose the thread of the story, and that 
they may know in advance where the river is flowing 
despite its immense meanders, and windings, at times 
seeming to dissipate itself in numerous channels, and at 
others appearing to turn back on its course. 
 
I take it up again at a point round about 1874 when 
the full cycle of religious experience had been achieved, 
and when, as he says himself, he had plucked the three 
beautiful fruits of the tree of Knowledge Compassion, 
Devotion 19 and Renunciation. 20 
 
During the same period his interviews with the eminent 
men of Bengal had made him aware of the inadequacy 
of their knowledge and of the great starving void awaiting 
him in the soul of India. He never ceased to make use of 
all the sources within his reach for adding to his knowledge, 
from the religious or the learned, from the poor or the 
 
18 Life of Ramakrishna, p. 543. Narayana is a certain aspect 
of Brahmin or Purusha, the supreme Soul, who brings forth gods 
and men. (Cf . Paul Masson-Oursel : Outline of the History of Indian 
Philosophy, p. 105.) 
 
lf The word Devotion, the term sanctioned by the European 
translations of Hindu mysticism, is quite inadequate to express 
the sentiment of a passionate gift of self implied in it. The true 
meaning of the old word ought to be revived, as it was used in 
Christian mysticism, for that gives its exact parallel, viz. Dedica- 
tion. (Cf. Ruysbroeck, Of Inward Dedication.) "If we wish to 
belong to God through inward dedication, we shall feel in the depth 
of our wills and in the depth of our love what may be called the 
welling up of a living spring, which will rise to eternal life." (De 
septem custodiis libellus, trans. E. Hello.) 
 
What Hindu Bhakta is there who will fail to recognize himself 
in the act of " dedication " described here by the Flemish priest 
of the fourteenth century ? 
 
10 " Compassion, Devotion and Renunciation are the glorious 
fruits of knowledge." (Interviews of Ramakrishna with the cele- 
brated pandit, Vidya-Sagar, August 5, 1882. Cf. Life of Rama- 
krishna, p. 526.) 
 
6 4 
 
 
 
THE RETURN TO MAN 
 
rich, from wandering pilgrims or pillars of science and 
society. Personal pride was quite alien to him ; he was 
instead rather inclined to think that each " seeker after 
truth" had received some special enlightenment, which 
he himself had missed, and he was anxious to pick up the 
crumbs that fell from their table. He therefore sought 
them out wherever they might be found without consider- 
ing how he might be received. 21 
 
At this point it is necessary to give the European reader 
a brief summary of the great movement stirring in the 
soul of India for the past sixty years. Too little is heard 
of this mighty reawakening, although the centenary of 
one of its most memorable dates, the foundation of the 
Brahmo Samaj, was celebrated in India this very year 
(1928). Humanity as a whole ought to have joined with 
India to commemorate its genial founder ; for despite all 
obstacles he had the will and the courage to inaugurate 
co-operation between the East and the West on a basis 
of equality, and between the forces of reason and the 
power of faith. He did not understand faith to mean a 
 
11 1 have already pointed out that in his temple he had the daily 
opportunity of talking to the faithful of all sorts and all sects. 
From the moment when the Bhairavi Brahmani had announced 
that he was a man visited of God, that he was perhaps an Incar- 
nation, people came to see him from far and near. Thus between 
1868 and 1871 he saw many famous personalities, such as the great 
Bengali poet, a convert to Christianity, Michael Madhusadan Dutt, 
and the masters of Vedantic learning like the pandits Narayan 
Shastri and Padma Lochan. In 1872 he met Visvanath Upadhyaya 
and Dayananda, the founder of the Arya Samaj, of whom I shall 
speak in the next chapter. It has not been possible for me to 
ascertain precisely the date of his visit to Devendranath Tagore. 
The Hindu authorities do not agree upon this point. It cannot 
have been later than 1869-70. The Tagores give 1864-65 as the 
approximate date. The authorized biographer of Ramakrishna 
(Mahendra Nath Gupta) ascribes it to 1863 on the ground that 
Ramakrishna gave it to be understood that in the course of this 
visit he sa>w Keshab Chunder Sen officiating in the pulpit of the 
Arya Samaj. Keshab was only the minister of the Samaj from 
1862 to 1865 ; and there are several reasons why Ramakrishna 
could not have made the journey in 1864-65. At all events it was 
in 1875 that he visited Keshab after he had become the head of 
the new reformed Brahmo Samaj, and it is from that year that 
their relations of cordial friendship date. 
 
65 F 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
blind acceptance, as it has degenerated into among down- 
trodden races, but rather a living and seeing intuition. 
 
I speak of Ram Mohun Roy. 22 
 
II As a general picture I recommend the recent work of K. T. 
Paul : The British Connection with India, 1927, London, Student 
Christian Movement, which traces with a sure hand the evolution 
of the national movement and the Hindu religious movements 
during the last century. K. T. Paul, an Indian Christian and the 
friend of Gandhi, a great and impartial mind filled with the thought 
alike of the East and of the West, unites in this work the historical 
precision of Europe and its science of facts with the science of the 
soul, a peculiarly Indian science. 
 
(Cf . the panoramic sketch, which I published in the Paris review, 
Europe, December 15, 1928, " India in Movement/') 
 
In its number of October, 1928, the Indian review, Prabuddha 
Bharata, published a very interesting paper of Swami Nikhilananda, 
which he had previously read in August, 1928, to the Convention 
of Religions at the Centenary of the Brahmo Samaj, on " The Pro- 
of Religion during the last Hundred Years " (in India). 
 
 
 
66 
 
 
 
VI 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY, RAM MOHUN ROY, DEVENDRANATH 
TAGORE, KESHAB CHUNDER SEN, DAYANANDA 
 
RAM MOHUN ROY, an extraordinary man who ushered 
in a new era in the spiritual history of the ancient 
continent, was the first really cosmopolitan type in India. 
During his life of less than sixty years (1774-1833) he 
assimilated all kinds of thought from the Himalayan myths 
of ancient Asia to the scientific reason of modern Europe. 1 
He belonged to a great aristocratic Bengal family,* 
bearing the hereditary title of Roy, and he was brought 
up at the court of the Great Mogul, where the official 
language was Persian. As a child he learnt Arabic in the 
Patna schools and read the works of Aristotle and Euclid 
in that language. Thus besides being an orthodox Brahmin 
 
1 Fat the life and works of this great forerunner, see Raja Ram 
Mohun Roy, his Writings and Speeches, 1925, Natesan, Madras, 
whose interest is marred by chronological inexactitude ; and the 
excellent pamphlet of Ramananda Chatterjee : Ram Mohun Roy 
and Modern India, 1918, The Modern Review Office, Calcutta. 
These works are based in part on the biography written by Miss 
Sophia Dobson Collett, who knew him personally. 
 
(Cf. N. C. Ganguly, fragments of an important volume bearing 
on Roy, published in September, 1928, by The Modern Review of 
Calcutta in a series entitled *' The Builders of India.") 
 
Manilal C. Parekh : Rajarshi Ram Mohun Roy, 1927, Oriental 
Christ House, Rajkot, Bombay, and Professor Dhirendranath Chpw- 
dhuri : " Ram Mohun Roy, the Devotee," The Modern Review, 
October, 1928. 
 
This year, the centenary of the foundation of the Brahmo Samaj, 
gave rise in India to the publication of many studies of Ram Mohun 
Roy. 
 
For the Brahmo Samaj, the church founded by Roy, see Siva 
Math Sastry : History of the Brahmo Samaj, 2 vols., 1911, Calcutta. 
 
1 His family came originally from Murehidabad, He was born 
at Burdwan in Lower Bengal 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
by birth 8 he was nurtured in Islamic culture. He did not 
discover the works of Hindu theology until he began to 
study Sanskrit between the ages of fourteen and sixteen 
at Benares. His Hindu biographers maintain that this was 
his second birth ; but it is quite conceivable that he had no 
need of the Vedanta to imbibe a monotheistic faith. Contact 
with Islam would have implanted it in him from infancy, 
and the sciences and practice of Hindu mysticism only re- 
inforced the indelible influence of Sufism, whose burning 
breath had impregnated his being from his earliest years. 4 
 
The ardour of his combative genius, mettlesome as a 
young war horse, led him when he was sixteen to enter 
upon a bitter struggle, destined to last as long as life itself, 
against idolatry. He published a book in Persian with a 
preface in Arabic attacking orthodox Hinduism. His out- 
raged father thereupon drove him from home. For four 
years he travelled in the interior of India and Thibet, 
studying Buddhism without growing to love it, and risking 
death from Lamaist fanaticism. At the age of twenty the 
prodigal son was recalled by his father and returned home. 
In a vain attempt to attach him to the world he was married, 
but no cage could contain such a bird. 
 
When he was twenty-four he began to learn English, as 
well as Hebrew, Greek and Latin. He made the acquaint- 
ance of Europeans and learnt their laws and their forms of 
government. As a result he suddenly cast aside his 
 
* On his father's side his family was Viashnavite. 
 
4 The intuitive power and mystic enlightenment of his nature 
have been somewhat obscured, especially in the West, by his repu- 
tation as a man of vigorous reasoning power and as a social re- 
former fighting against the mortal and deadly prejudices of his 
people. But the mystic side of his^ genius has been brought to 
the fore again by Dhirendranath Chowdhuri. The freedom of his 
intellect would not have been so valuable if it had not been based 
upon devotional elements equally profound and varied. From in- 
fancy he appears to have given himself up to certain practices 
of Yogist meditation, even to Tantric practices, which he later 
repudiated, concentrating for days on the name or on one attribute 
of God, repeating the word until the Spirit manifested its presence 
(the exercise of Purascharana), taking the vows of Brahmachariya 
(chastity) and silence, practising the mystic exercises of Sufism, 
more satisfying than the Bhakti of Bengal, which he found too 
sentimental for his proud taste. But his firm reason and will never 
resigned their functions. They governed his emotions. 
 
68 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
prejudice against the English and made common cause 
with them. In the higher interests of his people he won 
their confidence and took them as allies. He had dis- 
covered that only by depending on Europe could he hope 
to struggle for the regeneration of India. Once more he 
began his violent polemics against barbarous customs such 
as Sati, the burning of widows. 6 This raised a storm of 
opposition culminating in his definite expulsion from his 
family in 1799 at the instance of the Brahmins. A few 
years later even his mother and his wives, his nearest and 
dearest, refused to live with him. He spent a dozen hard 
and courageous years, abandoned by all except one or 
two Scottish friends. After accepting a post as tax- 
collector, he gradually rose until he became the ministerial 
chief of the district. 
 
After his father's death he was reconciled to his own 
people and inherited considerable property. The Emperor 
of Delhi made him a Rajah, and he had a palace and sump- 
tuous gardens in Calcutta. There he lived in the state of 
a great lord, giving magnificent receptions in the oriental 
style with troups of musicians and dancers. His portrait is 
preserved for us in the Bristol Museum. It reveals a face 
of great masculine beauty and delicacy with large brown 
eyes. He is wearing a flat turban like a crown, and a shawl 
is draped over a robe of Franciscan brown. 6 Although he 
lived as a Prince of the Arabian Nights, he did not allow 
it to interfere with his ardent study of the Hindu Scriptures 
or his campaign for restoring the pure spirit of the Vedas. 
To this end he translated them into Bengali and English 
and wrote commentaries upon them. He went even further. 
Side by side with the Upanishads and the Sutras, he made 
a close study of the Christian Testaments. It is said that 
he was the first high caste Hindu to study the teachings of 
Christ. After the Gospels he published in 1820 a book on 
 
It is said that in 1811 he was present at the burning of a young 
sister-in-law, and that the horror of the sacrifice, heightened by the 
struggles of the victim, upset him completely, so that he had no 
peace until he had freed the land from such crimes. 
 
He had adopted Mohammedan costume. In vain he tried later 
to impose it at the meetings of the Brahmo Samaj. In dress he 
possessed an aesthetic taste and hygienic sense of cleanliness and 
comfort, which belonged rather to Islam than to Hinduism. 
 
69 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
the Precepts of Jesus, a Guide to Peace and Happiness. 
About 1826 for some time he became a member of a Uni- 
tarian Society, founded by one of his European friends, the 
Protestant minister Adam, who secretly flattered himself 
that he had converted Roy to Christianity, so that he might 
become its great apostle to the Indians. But Roy was no 
more to be chained to orthodox Christianity than to ortho- 
dox Hinduism, although he believed that he had discovered 
its real meaning. He remained an independent theist, 
essentially a rationalist and moralist. He extracted from 
Christianity its ethical system, but he rejected the Divinity 
of Christ, just as he rejected the Hindu Incarnations. As 
a passionate Unitarian he attacked the Trinity no less than 
polytheism ; hence both Brahmins and missionaries were 
united in enmity against him. 
 
But he was not the man to be troubled on that account. 
As all other churches were closed to him 7 he opened one 
for himself and for the free believers of the universe. It 
was preceded by the founding of the Atmiya Sabha (the 
Society of Friends) in 1815 for the worship of God, the One 
and Invisible. In 1827 he had published a pamphlet on 
the Gayatri, supposed to be the most ancient theistic 
formula of the Hindus. Eventually in 1828 his chief friends, 
among whom was Tagore, gathered at his house and founded 
a Unitarian Association, destined subsequently to have a 
startling career in India, under the name of the Brahmo 
Samaj 8 (Adi Brahmo Samaj), the House of God. It was 
dedicated to the " worship and adoration of the Eternal, 
Unsearchable and Immutable Being, who is the Author 
and Preserver of the Universe." He was to be worshipped 
" not under or by any other name, designation or title 
peculiarly used for and applied* to any other particular 
 
7 With the exception of the excellent Adam's Unitarian Church, 
which was not in a prosperous condition. 
 
The name of Brahmo Samaj appears erroneously for the first 
tune in the deed of purchase of land whereon the Unitarian temple 
was built in 1829. 
 
Its first meeting was held on August 25, 1828. Every Satur- 
day from seven to nine recitations of the Vedas, readings from 
the Upaniahads, sermons on Vedic texts, the singing of hymns 
mostly composed by Roy himself and accompanied musically by 
a Mohammedan, took place. 
 
70 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
Being or Beings by any man or set of men whatever." The 
church was to be closed to none. Ram Mohun Roy wished 
that his Brahmo Samaj should be a universal house of 
prayer, open to all men without distinction of colour, caste, 
nation or religion. In the deed of gift he laid down that 
no religion " shall be reviled or slightly or contemptuously 
spoken of or alluded to." The cult was to encourage " the 
promotion of the contemplation of the Author and Preserver 
of the Universe " and " of charity, morality, piety, bene- 
volence, virtue and the strengthening the bonds of union 
between men of all religious persuasions and creeds." 
 
Roy then wished to found a universal religion, and his 
disciples and admirers voluntarily called it " Universalism." 
But I cannot accept this term in its full and literal mean- 
ing ; for Roy excluded from it all forms of polytheism from 
the highest to the lowest. The man who wishes to regard 
without prejudice religious realities at the present day must 
take into account that polytheism, from its highest expres- 
sion in the Three in One of the Christian Trinity to its most 
debased, holds sway over two-thirds at least of mankind. 
Roy calls himself correctly a " Hindu Unitarian," and did 
not hesitate to borrow from the two great Unitarian religions, 
Islam and Christianity. 9 But he defended himself stren- 
uously against the reproach of " eclecticism," and his 
disciples are agreed on that point. He held that doctrine 
ought to rest on original synthetic analysis, sounding the 
depths of religious experience. It is not then to be con- 
founded with the monism of the Vedanta nor with Christian 
unitarianism. The theism of Roy claims to rest on two 
poles, the " absolute " Vedanta and the Encyclopaedic 
thought of the eighteenth century in the Formless God 
and Reason. * 
 
It was not easy to define and it was still less easy to 
realize after he had gone ; for it implied a rare harmony 
of critical intelligence and faith going as far as the enlighten- 
ment of a noble mysticism consistently controlled and 
dominated by reason. Royally constituted physically and 
morally, he was able to attain the heights of contemplation 
 
Rain Mohun Roy's Hindu Unitarianism is nearer to the Bible 
than the doctrines of his immediate successors at the head of the 
Bnthmo Samaj, especially Devendranath Tagore. 
 
71 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
without losing for an instant the balance of his everyday 
life or interrupting his daily course ; he was protected 
against and disdainfully avoided the emotional excess to 
which the Bhaktas of Bengal were a prey. 10 It was not 
until we reach Aurobindo Ghose a century later that we 
find the same aristocratic freedom of diverse powers linked 
to the highest type of mind. It was not easily communic- 
able and in fact proved impossible to communicate intact. 
Noble and pure though the successors of Ram Mohun Roy 
were, they changed his doctrine out of all recognition. 
Nevertheless the Constitution of the Brahmo Samaj the 
Magna Carta Dei which included such part as could be 
understood and assimilated by his successors, founded a 
new era in India and Asia and a century has merely proved 
the grandeur of its conception. 
 
Roy emphasized its other practical aspect in his vigorous 
campaigns for social reform, 11 supported by the English 
 
10 (Cf. Dhirendranath Chowdhuri : " Ram Mohun Roy, the 
Devotee," The Modern Review, October, 1928 :) 
 
..." the Raja would be frequently found absorbed (in Brahma- 
samadhi), all his distractions notwithstanding. . . . For the Raja 
Samadhi is not an abnormal physiological change of the body that 
can be effected at will, not unconsciousness generated as in sound 
sleep, but the highly spiritual culture of perceiving Brahmin in 
all and the habit of surrendering the self to the higher self. 
Atmasakshatkar to him was not to deny the existence of the world 
. . . but to perceive God in every bit of perception . . . Ram 
Mohun was pre-eminently a Sadhaka. . . . Though a Vedantist 
in every pulse of his being, he did not fail to perceive that the 
Upanishads were not sufficient to satisfy the Bhakti hankerings of 
the soul, nor was he able to side with the Bhakti cult of Bengal. 
. . . But he hoped that the needs of Bhakti would be met by 
the Sufis. . . ." 
 
11 We cannot attempt to give here a full list of his innumerable 
reforms or attempted reforms. Let \t suffice to mention among 
the chief Sati (the burning of widows), which he proved to be 
contrary to the sacred texts and which he persuaded the British 
Government to forbid in 1829 and his campaign against polygamy 
his attempts to secure the remarriage of widows, inter-caste mar- 
riage, Indian unity, friendship between Hindus and Musulmans, 
Hindu education, which he wished to model on the same scientific 
lines as Europe and for which he wrote in Bengali numerous text- 
books on Geography, Astronomy, Geometry, Grammar, etc., the 
education of women based on the example of ancient India, liberty 
of thought and of the Press, legal reforms, political equality, etc. 
 
In 1821 he founded a Bengali newspaper, the father of the native 
 
72 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
administration, more liberal and more intelligent than that 
of to-day. 12 There was nothing parochial about his pat- 
riotism. He cared for nothing but liberty and civil and 
religious progress. Far from desiring the expulsion of 
England from India, he wished her to be established there 
in such a way that her blood, her gold and her thought 
would intermingle with the Indian, and not as a blood- 
sucking ghoul leave her exhausted. He went so far as 
to wish his people to adopt English as their universal lan- 
guage, to make Indian Western socially and then to achieve 
independence and enlighten the rest of Asia. His news- 
papers were impassioned in the cause of liberty on behalf 
of all the nations of the world Ireland, Naples crushed 
under reaction, revolutionary France in the July Days of 
1830. But this loyal partisan of co-operation with England 
could speak frankly to her, and he did not conceal his 
intention of breaking with her if his great hopes of her as 
a leader in the advancement of his people were not realized. 
Towards the end of 1830 the Emperor of Delhi sent him 
as his ambassador to England ; for Roy wished to be present 
 
Press of India, a Persian paper, another paper called the Ved Mandir 
for the study of Vedic science. Moreover, India owes to him her 
first modern Hindu college and free schools, and ten years after 
his death the first school for women in Calcutta (1843). 
 
11 The recent blunders of the Indian Government and the legiti- 
mate desire of India to free herself from it, the spirit of brutal 
and narrow pride of which Lord Curzon as Viceroy was the most 
striking type, and the spirit of narrow and vainglorious incompre- 
hension reflected in literature in the works of Kipling, ought not to 
allow the moral debt which India owes to the British administra- 
tion to be forgotten. Without her aid the social awakening of 
India during the nineteenth century would have been impossible, 
and the same is true of her un^ty through the language of her con- 
querors. Not to mention the admirable work of the Englishmen 
who rediscovered Sanskrit from William James to William Carey 
and Wilson, there were the superior merits of the great Governor- 
Generals of the first days of the conquest the disinterestedness of 
Clive, the high intelligence of Warren Hastings, who wrote (who 
remembers the fact now ?) " that the writings of Indian philoso- 
phers would survive when British dominion in India should have 
long since ceased to exist. 
 
Ram Mohun Roy would never have been able to make headway 
against the violence of fanatical Brahmins nor to realize certain of 
his most pressing social reforms without the friendship and support 
of the Governor-General, Lord William Bentinck. 
 
73 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
at the debate in the Commons for the renewal of the Charter 
of the East India Company. He arrived in April, 1831, 
and was warmly received at Liverpool, at Manchester, at 
London and at Court. He made many illustrious friends, 
Bentham among their number, paid a short visit to France, 
and then died of brain fever at Bristol on September 27, 
1833, where he is buried. His epitaph runs : 
 
" A conscientious and steadfast believer in the Unity of 
Godhead : he consecrated his life with entire devotion to 
the worship " or to use the language of Europe, its mean- 
ing being the same, " of Human Unity." 
 
This man of gigantic personality, whose name to our 
shame is not inscribed in the Pantheon of Europe as well 
as of Asia, sank his ploughshare in the soil of India and 
sixty years of labour left her transformed. A great writer 
of Sanskrit, Bengali, Arabic, Persian and English, the father 
of modern Bengali prose, the author of celebrated hymns, 
poems, sermons, philosophic treatises and political contro- 
versial writings of all kinds, he sowed his thoughts and his 
passion broadcast. And out of the earth of Bengal has 
 
come forth the harvest a harvest and works and men. 
 
* * * 
 
The poet's grandfather, Dvarakanath Tagore, a friend of 
Ram Mohun Roy, was the chief supporter of the Brahmo 
Samaj after the latter's death ; 18 Rabindranath's father, 
Devendranath Tagore (1817-1905), Roy's second successor 
after the interregnum of Ramchandra Vidyabagish, was the 
man who really organized the Brahmo Samaj. This noble 
figure, aureoled in history with the name of Saint (Maharshi) 
bestowed upon him by his people, merits some attempt at 
a short description. 14 
 
He had the physical and spiritual beauty, the high intd- 
 
11 Dvarakanath, like Roy, died during a journey to England 
in 1846. This double death in the West is a sign of the current 
carrying towards Europe the first pilots of the Brahmo Samaj. 
 
14 Devendranath left an autobiography in Bengali (translated 
into English by Satyendranath Tagore and Indiri Devi, 1909, Cal- 
cutta), which gives the story of the long pilgrimage of his inner 
life from the depths of illusion and superstition to the Spirit of 
the Living God, and is in reality the religious Journal of his soul. 
 
(Of. an excellent little article by M. Dugard in Feuilks de I'Inde, 
ist volume, 1928, C. A. H6gman, editor, Boulogne-sur-Seine.) 
 
74 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
lect, the moral purity, the aristocratic perfection, which he 
bequeathed to his children ; moreover, he possessed the 
same deep and warm poetic sensibility. 
 
Born at Calcutta, the eldest son of a rich family, brought 
up in orthodox traditions, his adolescence was exposed to 
the seductions of the world and the snares of pleasure, from 
which he was rescued by a visitation of death to his home. 
But he was to pass through a long moral crisis before he 
reached the threshold of religious space. It is characteristic 
that his decisive advances were always the result of poetic 
emotions roused by some accidental happening : the wind 
that carried to him the name of Hari (Vishnu), chanted to 
a dying man on a night of full moon on the banks of the 
Ganges ; or the words of a boatman during a storm " Be 
not afraid ! Forward ! " or again the wind that blew a 
torn page of Sanskrit to his feet, whereon were written 
words from the Upanishads, which seemed to him the voice 
of God " Leave all and follow Him ! Enjoy His inexpres- 
sible riches. ..." 
 
In 1839 with his brothers and sisters and several friends 
he founded a Society for the propagation of the truths in 
which they believed. Three years later he joined the 
Brahmo Samaj and became its leading spirit. It was he 
who built up its faith and ritual. He organized its regular 
worship, founded a school of theology for the training of 
ministers, preached himself and in 1848 wrote in Sanskrit 
the Brahmo Dharma, " a theistic manual of religion and 
ethics for the edification of the faithful." 15 He himself 
considered that it was inspired. 16 The source of his inspir- 
 
1 An English translation has just been published by H. Chundra 
Sarkar. The Brahmo Dharma has had a large circulation in India, 
where it has been translated into different dialects. 
 
" It was the Truth of God that penetrated my heart. These 
living truths came down into my heart from Him who is the Life 
and .the Light and the Truth." (Devendranath.) He dictated the 
first part in three hours, and the whole of the treatise was pro- 
duced " in the language of the Upanishads like a river ; spiritual 
truths flowed through my mind by His grace. 1 ' The danger with 
this process of inspired legislation, the natural expression of a man 
of Devendranath's temperament, is that, on the one hand, his 
Brahmo Samaj maintained that " Truth is th.e only eternal and 
imperishable scripture " and did not recognize any other holy book 
as scripture, and, on the other, that Ttuth rested on the authority 
 
75 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
ation, of quite a different order from that- of Ram Mohun 
Roy, was almost entirely the Upanishads but subjected to 
a free interpretation. 17 Devendranath afterwards laid down 
the four articles of faith of the Brahmo Samaj : 
 
1. In the beginning was nothing. The One Supreme 
Being alone existed. He created the universe. 
 
2. He alone is the God of Truth, Infinite Wisdom, Good- 
ness and Power, Eternal and Omnipresent, the One without 
second. 
 
3. Our salvation depends on belief in Him and in His 
worship in this world and the next. 
 
4. Belief consists in loving Him and doing His will. 
The faith of the Brahmo Samaj then is a faith in a One 
 
God, who created the universe out of nothing, and who is 
characterized essentially by the Spirit of Kindness, and 
whose absolute adoration is necessary for the salvation of 
man in the next world. 
 
I have, no means of judging whether this is as purely 
Hindu a conception as Devendranath thought it was. But 
it is interesting to note that the Tagore family belong to 
a community of Brahmins called Pirilis, or chief Ministers, 
as posts occupied by its members under the Musulman 
regime. In a sense they were put outside caste by their 
relations with Mohammedans ; 18 it is, however, perhaps 
not too much to say that the persistent rigour of their 
theism has been due to this influence. From Dvarakanath 
to Rabindranath they have been the implacable enemies of 
all forms of idolatry. 19 
 
According to K. T. Paul, Devendranath had to wage a 
 
of this inner outpouring which had issued in the last resort from 
several of the Hindu Scriptures, chosen and commented upon in a 
preconceived sense. 
 
1T Devendranath's attitude to the Holy Books was not always 
consistent. Between 1844 and 1846 at Benares he seems to have 
considered that the Vedas were infallible, but later after 1847 he 
abandoned fills idea and individual inspiration gained the upper hand. 
 
" (Cf. Manjulal Dave : The Poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, 1927.) 
 
" Over the door of Shantiniketan, the home of the Tagores, an 
inscription runs : " In this place no image is to be adored." But 
it goes on to add : " And no man's faith is to be despised." 
 
Islamic influences in the infancy of Ram Mohun Roy as well 
must always be borne in mind in considering the penetration of 
the Indian spirit with the current of monotheism. 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
prolonged struggle, on the one hand against the practices 
of orthodox Hinduism, and, on the other, against Christian 
propaganda which sought to gain a footing in the Brahmo 
Samaj. The need for defence led him to surround the 
citadel with a fortification of firm and right principles as 
picket posts. The bridge was raised between it and the 
two extremes of Indian religion polytheism, which Deven- 
dranath strictly prohibited, 20 and the absolute monism of 
Sankara ; for the Brahmo Burg was the stronghold of the 
great Dualism of the One and personal God and Human 
Reason, to whom God has granted the power and the right 
to interpret the Scriptures. I have already pointed out 
that in Devendranath's case and still more that of his 
successors, Reason had a tendency to be confused with 
religious inspiration. About 1860 from the depths of an 
eighteen months' retreat in the Himalayas near the Simla 
Hills he produced a garland of solitary meditation. 21 These 
 
10 To such a degree that at his father's death in 1846 the eldest 
son, whose business it was to arrange the funeral ceremonies, re- 
fused to bow to family tradition because it included idolatrous rites. 
The scandal was so great that his family and friends broke with 
him. I must not linger over the years of noble trial which followed. 
Devendranath devoted himself to the crushing task of paying back 
his father's creditors in full and of meeting all the engagements 
made by his prodigality ; for he died heavily in debt. 
 
11 His young son, Rabindranath, accompanied him. 
 
I love to associate with the magnificent memories of this im- 
passioned retreat in the Himalayas, the wonderful appeal later 
addressed by Rabindranath to the " Shepherd of the peoples." 
 
" Ruler of peoples' minds and builder of India's destiny. Thy 
name rises in the sky from summits of the Himalayas and Vindhyas, 
flows in the stream of the Ganges and is sung by the surging sea. 
 
" In Thy name wake Punjab and Sind, Maratha and Gujrat, 
Dravid, Utval and Vanga. They gather at Thy feet asking for 
Thy blessing and singing Thy* victory. 
 
" Victory to Thee, Giver of good to all people, Victory to Thee, 
Builder of India's destiny. 
 
" yhere sounds Thy call and they come before 
Hindus and Buddhists, the Jains and Sikhs, the 
mans and Christians. The East and the West 
love at Thy shrine. 
 
" Victory to Thee who makest one the min^ 
 
" Victory to Thee, Builder of India's destifl 
Call to the Fatherland.) 
 
In point of fact Rabindranath profited 
given to the primitive Brahmo Samaj by 
 
77 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
thoughts were later expanded into improvised sermons 
deeply moving to his Calcutta public. Further he bestowed 
upon the Brahmo Samaj a new liturgy inspired by the 
Upanishads and impregnated with an ardent and pure 
spirituality. 
 
A short time after his return from the Himalayas in 1862 
he adopted as his coadjutor Keshab Chunder Sen, a young 
man of twenty-three, who was destined to surpass him and 
to provoke a schism, or rather a series of schisms in the 
Brahmo Samaj. 
 
This man, 22 who only lived from 1838 to 1884, irresolute, 
restless but at the same time inspired, was the chief per- 
sonality to influence the Brahmo Samaj during the second 
half of the nineteenth century. He enriched and renewed 
it to such an extent that he endangered its very existence. 
 
He was the representative of a different class and gener- 
ation much more deeply impregnated with Western influ- 
ences. Instead of being a great aristocrat like Roy and 
Devendranath, he belonged to the liberal and distinguished 
middle class of Bengal, who were in constant intellectual 
touch with Europe. He belonged to the sub-caste of 
physicians. His grandfather, a remarkable man, the native 
 
11 For Keshab Chunder Sen, see 
 
1. Pandit Gour Govindo Roy : Nine volumes have appeared of 
a biography in Bengali. 
 
2. Pratap Chunder Mozoomdar (his chief disciple and successor) : 
The Faith and Progress of the Brahmo Samaj, 1882, Calcutta. Aims 
and Principles of Keshab Ch. Sen, 1889, Calcutta. 
 
3. Promotho Loll Sen : Keshab Chunder Sen, a Study, 1902, new 
edition, 1915, Calcutta. 
 
4. T. L. Vaswami : Sri Keshab Ch. Sen t a Social Mystic, 1916, 
Calcutta. 
 
5. B. Mozoomdar (President of the Keshab Mission Society) : 
Professor Max Mutter on Ramakrishna ; the world on Keshab Ch. 
Sen t 1900, Calcutta. 
 
6. Manila! C. Parekh : Brahmarshi Keshab Ch. Sen, 1926, Rajkot, 
Oriental: Christ House. 
 
(This work by an Indian Christian disciple is the only one to 
show clearly Keshab's Christianity. It was at first tentative, but 
gradually took possession of him more and more definitely and 
completely.) 
 
7* Keshab Chunder Sen : A Voice from the Himalayas, a collec- 
tion oithe lectures delivered by Keshab at Simla in 1868, preceded 
by an iatro^ /v *^** T*V Simla. 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
secretary of the Asiatic Society, had control over the publi- 
cation of all the editions of books published in Hindustani. 
He was left an orphan at an early age, and was brought 
up in an English School. It was this that made him so 
different from his two predecessors ; for he never knew 
Sanskrit and very soon broke away from the popular forms 
of the Hindu religion. 28 Christ had touched him, and it 
was to be his mission in life to introduce him into the 
Brahmo Samaj, and into the heart of a group of the best 
minds in India. When he died The India Christian Herald 
said of him : " The Christian Church mourns the death of 
its greatest ally. Christians looked upon him as God's 
messenger, sent to awake India to the spirit of Christ. 
Thanks to him hatred of Christ died out/' 
 
This last statement is not quite correct ; for we shall see 
to what point Keshab himself had to suffer as the champion 
of Christ. The real significance of his life has been obscured 
by most of the men who have spoken of him even within 
the Brahmo Samaj ; for they were offended by the heresy 
of their chief and tried to hide it. He himself only revealed 
it by degrees, so that it is through documents written as 
long as twenty years before his death that we learn from 
his own lips that his life had been influenced from his youth 
up by three great Christian visitants, John the Baptist, 
Christ and St. Paul. 24 Moreover in a serious confidential 
 
11 It is only natural that in spite of this fact he never lost 
the religious temperament peculiar to his race. Pratap Chunder 
Mozoomdar in the course of a conversation in 1884 with Rama- 
krishna related the mystic childhood of Keshab. (The Gospel of Sri 
Ramakrishna.) He was early " marked by non-attachment to the 
things of this world " and absorbed in inward concentration and 
contemplation. " He was even subject to fits of loss of conscious- 
ness due to excess of devotiofl." He later applied the forms of 
Hindu religious " devotion " to non-Hindu religious objects. And 
the " Vaishnavited " form of Christianity he adopted was accom- 
panied by a constant study of Yoga. 
 
14 Easter, 1879 ; Lecture : India Asks, Who is Christ ? 
 
"... My Christ, my sweet Christ, the brightest jewel of my 
heart, the necklace of my soul for twenty years have I cherished 
Him in this my miserable heart. 1 ' 
 
January, 1879 ; Lecture : Am I an Inspired Prophet ? 
 
" What was it that made me so singular in the earlier years of 
my life ? Providence brought me into the presence of three very 
singular persons in those days. They were among my soul's earliest 
 
79 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
letter to his intimate disciple, Pratap Chunder Mozoomdar, 26 
a letter of primary importance passed over in silence by 
non-Christian Brahmos, he shows us how he was waiting 
until the time was ripe to make public avowal of his faith 
in Christ. The double life Keshab led for so long, was partly 
caused by the duality of his own character, compounded 
as it was of the diverse and incompatible elements of the 
East and the West, which were in constant conflict with 
each other. Hence it is very difficult for the historian to 
make an impartial study ; Hindu biographers, in nearly 
every case hotly partizans, have done nothing to lighten 
his task. 26 He was introduced to the Brahmo Samaj by 
 
acquaintances. I met three stately figures, heavenly, majestic, and 
full of divine radiance. . . . (The first) John the Baptist was 
seen going about in the wilderness of India, saying, ' Repent ye, 
for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand/ ... I fell down at the 
feet of John the Baptist. ... He passed away, and then came 
another prophet far greater than he, the prophet of Nazareth. 
... ' Take no thought for the morrow/ These words of Jesus 
found a lasting lodgment in my heart. Hardly had Jesus finished 
his words, when came another prophet, and that was the travelled 
ambassador of Christ, the strong, heroic and valiant Apostle Paul. 
. . . And his words (relating to chastity) came upon me like a 
burning fire at a most critical period of my life." 
 
It should be added that he had gained a knowledge of the New 
Testament at the English College, for a chaplain used to read it 
to the young people, translating it from the Greek. 
 
15 In this letter, whereon the exact date does not appear, but 
which it is safe to assume was written to Mozoomdar directly after 
his famous lecture in 1866 on " Jesus Christ, Europe and Asia," 
Keshab explained himself thus : 
 
"... I have my own ideas about Christ, but I am not bound 
to give them out in due form, until the altered circumstances of 
the country gradually develop them out of my mind. Jesus is 
identical with self-sacrifice, and as He lived and preached in the 
fullness of time, so must He be in -ftini preached in the fullness of 
time ... I am, therefore, patiently waiting that I may grow with 
the age and the nation and that the spirit of Christ's sacrifice may 
grow therewith." (Cf. Manilal C. Parekh : op. cit. t pp. 29-31.) 
 
" Tfie author does not attempt to hide his grudge against these 
historians ; for nearly all of them seem to consider history as a 
mass of "material wherein one is at liberty to choose only those 
facts which serve to plead a personal cause, and systematically to 
ignore the rest. (This is apart from the superb indifference to 
scientific exactitude, which characterizes all Hindu historians : it 
is a miracle if a few dates can be gleaned here and there : even 
when they do appear they have been scattered with such careless 
 
80 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
Devendranath T.agore's son, a student of the same college, 
and during the early days of his admission, young Keshab 
was surrounded with love. He became the darling of 
Devendranath and of the young members of the Brahmo 
Samaj, who felt themselves drawn into closer contact with 
him than with the noble Devendranath, dwelling in spite 
of himself in Olympian isolation as the result of his breeding 
and idealism. 27 Keshab had a social sense and wished to 
rouse the same feeling throughout India. A hyper-indi- 
vidualist by nature and doubtless just because this was the 
case, 28 he early in life recognized that part of the evils of 
his country arose out of this same hyper-individualism, and 
that India needed to acquire a new moral conscience. " Let 
all souls be socialized and realize their unity with the people, 
the visible community/ 1 This conception, uniting 29 the 
 
hand that it is impossible to rely upon them.) This short disser- 
tation on Keshab's personality and its development has had to be 
rewritten three times, after the discovery of essential points, either 
omitted or twisted out of all recognition by his accredited Indian 
biographers. 
 
87 " Devendranath was too preoccupied by his personal relation- 
ship to God to feel more than moderately the call of social responsi- 
bilities." From a letter of a friend of the Tagores. 
 
18 His chief disciple, Pratap Chunder Mozoomdar, said that he 
constantly struggled against the flights of his mystic nature, and 
that " he always succeeded in containing them " (a fact which is 
not altogether true) ; "for the great object of his life was to bring 
religion within the reach of heads of families/' in other words to 
re-establish it in ordinary e very-day life. This was one of the 
sources of those contradictions in his character, which compro- 
mised his work. He attempted to reconcile the irreconcilable 
the mystic upspringing natural to him, and the canalization of 
the divine stream for the moral and social service of the com- 
munity Theocentrism and anthropocentrism, to use the language 
of Western mysticism as analysed by the able Henri Br6mond. 
Both of them, moreover, in the case of Keshab existed in the 
highest degree. But his rich nature, too plastic, too perpetually 
receptive to all spiritual foods offered for the satisfaction of his 
appetite, which was greater than his faculty for absorption, made 
him a living contradiction. It is said that while at College he 
played the part of Hamlet in a performance of Shakespeare's play. 
In point of fact he remained the young prince of Denmark to the 
end of his life. 
 
In theory at least. In practice Keshab never succeeded in 
touching the masses. His thought was too impregnated with 
elements alien to the thought of India. 
 
8l G 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
each one of whom was charged with his own special message, 
and was to be accepted without special attachment to any 
single one. He threw open his Church to men of all countries 
and all ages, and introduced for the first time extracts 
from the Bible, the Koran, the Zend Avesta 86 into 
the manual of devotional lessons for the use of the 
Brahmo Samaj. But far from dying down, feeling ran 
higher. 
 
Keshab was not the man to be unmoved by it. His 
sensitive and defenceless heart suffered more than most 
from disaffection. Public misunderstanding, the desertion 
of his companions, heavy material difficulties, and over 
and above all the torments of his own conscience, perhaps 
even doubts as to his mission added to " a very lively 
sense of weakness, of sin and of repentance " peculiarly 
his own as distinct from most of the other religious spirits 
of Hinduism, 86 resulted in a devastating crisis of soul, which 
lasted throughout 1867. He was alone with his grief, with- 
out any outside help, alone with God. But God spoke to 
him, so that the religious experience of that year when 
he was racked by conflicting emotions, as he daily officiated 
as divine priest by himself in his house, led to a complete 
transformation not only in his ideas but in their expression. 
Up till then he had been the chief among religious intellec- 
tuals, a moralist, a stranger to sentimental effusions, which 
had been repellent to him ; but now he was flooded by a 
torrent of emotion love and tears and gave himself up 
to it in rapture. 
 
This was the dawn of a new era for the Brahmo Samaj. 
 
* This manual, called the Slokasangraha (1866), though a great 
deal larger than Devendranath's, never had such a wide circulation 
in India as the Brahmo Dharma. Nevertheless Keshab followed the 
true tradition of Roy when he said that " the harmony of religions 
was the real mission of the Brahmo Samaj. 1 ' 
 
11 It was P. C. Mozoomdar who noted in him this " sense of 
sin " so curiously at variance with the spirit of Devendranath as 
well as Ramakrishna and above all of Vivekananda. We shall see 
later that Vivekananda denounced it as evidence of a weak dis- 
position, a real mental malady, for which be threw the blame on 
Christianity. The state of mind that Keshab systematically cul- 
tivated culminated in a sermon delivered in 1881 : We Apostles of 
the New Dispensation, where he likened himself to Judas much to 
the scandal of his hearers. 
 
8 4 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
The mysticism 'of the great Bhakta, Chiatanya, and the 
Sankirtans were introduced within its walls. From morning 
till night there were prayers and hymns accompanied by 
Vaishnavite musical instruments, and feasts of God ; 37 and 
Keshab officiated at them all, his face bathed in tears he, 
who, it was said, had never wept. The wave of emotion 
spread. Keshab's sincerity, his spirit of universal com- 
prehension and his care for the public weal brought him 
the sympathy alike of the best minds of India and England, 
including the Viceroy. His journey to England in 1870 
was a triumphal progress. The enthusiasm he roused was 
equal to that inspired by Kossuth. During his six months' 
stay 88 he addressed seventy meetings of 40,000 persons 
and fascinated his audiences by the simplicity of his English 
and by his musical voice. He was compared to Gladstone. 
He was greeted as the spiritual ally of the West, the Evan- 
gelist of Christ in the East. In all good faith both sides 
were labouring under delusions, destined to be dissipated 
during the following years, not without a naive deception 
of the English. For Keshab remained deeply Indian at 
heart and was not to be enrolled in the ranks of European 
Christianity. On the other hand, he thought he could 
enroll it. India and the Brahmo Samaj profited from the 
good disposition of the government. 89 In its reconstituted 
form, it spread in all directions, to Simla, Bombay, Lahore, 
Lucknow, Monghyr, etc. A mission tour undertaken by 
Keshab across India in 1873 with the object of bringing 
about unity among the brothers and sisters of the new 
faith, a tour which was the forerunner of the great voyage 
of exploration undertaken twenty years later by Vivekan- 
 
17 It is noticeable that on Ijjiis occasion there was no question 
of Christ. The Bhakti of Chaitanya is another aspect of Keshab's 
religion. " Thus/' wrote P. C. Mozoomdar, " Keshab stood at the 
threshold of his independent career with the shadow of Jesus on 
the one hand, and the shadow of Chaitanya on the other." His 
enemies took account of it in 1884 when some of them reported 
maliciously to Ramakrishna that Keshab had claimed to be " a 
partial incarnation of Christ and Chaitanya." 
 
11 He came to know Gladstone, Stuart Mill, Max Miiller, Francis 
Newman, Dean Stanley, etc., personally. 
 
* Especially in the case of several reforms, among them a legis- 
lative one directly concerning the Brahmo Samaj the legal recog- 
nition of Brahmo marriages. 
 
85 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
anda in the guise of a wandering Sannyasin. The tour 
opened up new horizons and he believed that he had found 
the key to popular polytheism, so repugnant to the Brahmo 
Samaj, and that he could make an alliance between it and 
pure theism. But to this union, realized spontaneously by 
Ramakrishna at the same time, Keshab brought a spirit 
of intellectual compromise. He was obliged to convince 
himself (he failed to convince the polytheists) that their 
gods were at bottom nothing but the names of different 
attributes of the one God. 
 
" Their (Hindu) idolatry," he wrote in The Sunday 
Mirror, " is nothing but the worship of divine attributes 
materialized. If the material shape is given up, what 
remains is a beautiful allegory. . . . We have found out 
that every idol worshipped by the Hindu represents an 
attribute of God, and that each attribute is called by a 
peculiar name. The believer in the New Dispensation is 
required to worship God as the possessor of all those 
attributes, represented by the Hindu as innumerable, or 
three hundred and thirty millions. To believe in an 
undivided Deity, without reference to the aspects of his 
nature, is to believe in an abstract God, and it would lead 
us to practical rationalism and infidelity. If we are to 
worship Him in all His manifestations, we shall name one 
attribute Lakshmi, another Saraswati, another Mahadeva, 
etc., etc. . . ." 
 
This meant a great step forward in religious compre- 
hension, embracing as it did the greater part of mankind. 
But it never came to anything because Keshab intended 
that his Theism should have all the real power and poly- 
theism was to receive nothing but outward honour. On 
the other hand, he avoided Advaitism, absolute Monism, 
which has always been forbidden to the Brahmo. The result 
was that religious reason sat on the fence separating the 
two camps of the two extreme faiths. The prevailing 
situation was not an exact equilibrium of rest and the 
position in which Keshab insisted on placing himself could 
not be a permanent one. For he believed that he was 
called by God to dictate His new revealed law, the New 
Dispensation, from thence. He began to proclaim it in 
40 August i, 1880 : " The Philosophy of Idol worship." 
 
86 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
1875, 41 the year when his relations with Ramakrishna 
began. 
 
Like so many self-appointed legislators, he found it 
difficult to establish law and order in his own mind, especially 
as he wished his legislation to be all embracing and to 
include Christ and Brahman, the Gospels and Yoga, religion 
and reason. Ramakrishna reached the same point in all 
simplicity through his heart, and made no attempt to fence 
his discovery within a body of doctrine and precept ; he 
was content to show the way, to set the example, to give 
the impetus. Keshab adopted at the same time the methods 
of an intellectual European at the head of a school of 
comparative religion and the methods of inspired persons 
of India and America Bhakti in tears, Revivals and public 
confessions. 
 
He gave to each of his favourite disciples a different 
form of religion to study 42 and Yoga to practise. 48 His 
skill as a teacher was shown in choosing for each disciple 
the one best adapted to his individual character. He 
himself oscillated between two advisors, both equally dear 
to him the living example of Ramakrishna to whom he 
 
41 In the Lecture : " Behold the Light of Heaven in India." 
4> Each of his four chosen disciples dedicated himself to a life- 
long study of one of the four great religions, and in some cases was 
absorbed into the subject of his study : Upadhyaya Gour Govindo 
Roy was given Hinduism and produced a monumental work, a 
Sanskrit commentary on the Gita and a life of Sri Krishna : Sadhu 
Aghore Nath studied Buddhism, and wrote a life of Buddha in 
Bengali, following in his footsteps until he was cut off in the prime 
of a saintly life : Bhai Girish Chunder Sen devoted himself to Islam, 
translated the Koran and wrote a life of Mahomet and several other 
works in Arabic and Persian. Finally Pratap Chunder Mozoomdar 
studied Christianity and published a book called The Oriental Christ. 
He was so impregnated with its spiritual atmosphere that real 
Indian Christians such as Manilal C. Parekh, sprang from the school 
of thought he founded. 
 
4i After January i, 1875, when he inaugurated the new method 
of spiritual development usually called the Dispensation, he varied 
the paths of the soul (Yogas) according to the character of his 
disciples, recommending Bhakti to some, Jnana to others, Raja to 
others. The different forms of devotion were linked together by 
the different names or attributes of God. (Cf. P. C. Mozoomdar.) 
I shall return to this point in the second part of this volume when 
I study Hindu mysticism and the different kinds of Yoga. 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
went for guidance in ecstasy, and the precepts of the Christian 
faith as practised by an Anglican monk, who later became 
a Roman Catholic, Luke Rivington. Moreover he could 
never choose between the life of God and the life of the 
world, and with disarming sincerity he maintained that 
the one was not necessarily harmful to the other. 44 
 
But the confusion of his mind wronged him and reacted 
on the Brahmo Samaj, all the more because he was a man 
" of the most transparent sincerity/' 46 who neglected the 
most elementary precautions to conceal the changeableness 
and heterogeneity of his nature. The result was a new 
schism in the Brahmo Samaj in 1878, and Keshab found 
himself the butt of violent attacks from his own people, 
who accused him of having betrayed his principles. 46 The 
majority of his friends deserted him and so he fell fatally 
into the hands of the few faithful ones that remained 
Ramakrishna and Father Luke Rivington. Moreover this 
new trial reopened the door to a whole flood of professions 
of the Christian faith, which became more and more explicit 
and in accordance with the deepest metaphysics of Christi- 
anity. Thus in the lecture " Am I an Inspired Prophet ? " 
(January, 1879), he described his childish visions of John 
the Baptist, Christ and St. Paul ; in " India asks, Who 
is Christ ? " (Easter, 1879), he announced to India the 
coming of " the Bridegroom . . . my Christ, my sweet 
Christ, born of God and man 1 '; 47 and in "Does God 
 
44 His well-wishers, such as Ramakrishna, did not fail to remark 
with a touch of malice that this saintly man left his affairs in good 
order and a rich house, etc., when he died. Keshab did not renounce 
the pleasures of society, he took an active part in amusements and 
played in the dramas acted in his house. (Cf. The Gospel of Sri 
Ramakrishna, April, 1884.) But Ramakrishna never doubted his 
sincerity. It was unimpeachable. He only regretted that such a 
religious and gifted man should remain half-way to God instead 
of giving himself entirely to Him. 
 
41 Promotho Loll Sen : op. cit. 
 
4i The occasion was a domestic one, the marriage of his daughter 
before the age established by the law of the Brahmo Samaj to a 
Maharaja. But here again, as in the schism with Devendranath, 
the real cause was hidden. A third Brahmo Samaj was founded, 
the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, more narrow and definitely anti- 
Christian. 
 
4T " My Master Jesus . . . Young men of India . . . Believe 
and remember . . . He will come to you as self-surrender, as 
 
88 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
Manifest Himself Alone ? " he showed the son sitting on 
the right hand of the Father. 48 
 
All these pronouncements, however, did not hinder him 
from dictating at the same time from the heights of the 
Himalayas his famous Epistle to Indian Brethren (1880) 
for the jubilee of the Brahmo Samaj, announcing in a 
pontifical tone " Urbi et Orbi," 49 the Message entrusted 
to him by God, the New Dispensation. One might believe 
that the words came out of the Bible : 
 
" Hearken, Oh Hindustan, the Lord your God is one." 
 
So begins the Epistle to the Indian Brethren. 
 
" Jehovah the great spirit, whose clouds thunder ' I am/ 
whom the heavens and the earth declare/' (ibid.) 
 
" I write this epistle to you, dear and beloved friends, 
in the spirit and after the manner of St. Paul, however 
unworthy I am of his honoured Master. . . . (ibid.) 
 
But he adds, 
 
" Paul wrote full of faith in Christ. As a theist I write 
to you this, my humble epistle, at the feet, not of one 
prophet only, but of all the prophets in heaven and earth, 
living or dead. . . /' 
 
For he claimed to be the fulfilment of Christ the fore- 
runner. 
 
" The New Dispensation is the prophecy of Christ ful- 
filled. . , . The Omnipotent speaks to-day to our country 
as formerly he did to other nations. . . /' 50 
 
At this moment he even believed that he was formed 
of the same stuff as the Spirit of God. 
 
ascetism, as Yoga . . . The Bridegroom cometh . . . Let India, 
beloved India, be dressed in all her jewellery." 
 
Again Keshab declared in his articles in the Indian Mirror, 
11 What the Brahmo Samaj aid to clear the moral character of 
Christ more than twelve years ago, it does with respect to His 
divinity at the present day." (April 20, 1879.) There were no 
half measures about this. Christ was God. 
 
And again, " The Mosaic dispensation only ? Perhaps the Hindu 
dispensation also. In India He will fulfil the Hindu dispensation." 
 
4i This lecture followed and completed another : God- Vision in 
the nineteenth century, wherein Keshab in his homage to science, 
is a forerunner of Vivekananda, who has joined heaven and earth. 
 
41 Urbi et OrWthat is to say, the City (Rome) and the world 
(like the Roman Pope). 
 
Cf. sermon : " Behold the Light of Heaven in India " (1875). 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
" The Spirit of God and my inner self are knit together. 
If you have seen me, you have seen Him. . . ." 
 
What then does the Omnipotent, whose voice he is, 
have to declare ? What " new Love, new Hope, new Joy 
does he bring ? " (" How sweet is this new Evangel. 11 ) 
 
This is what Jehovah as God of India dictates to the 
new Moses : 
 
" The infinite Spirit, whom no eye hath seen, and no 
ear hath heard, is your God, and you should have none 
other God. There are two false gods, raised by men of 
India in opposition to the All Highest the Divinity which 
ignorant hands have fashioned, and the divinity which the 
vain dreams of intellectuals have imagined are alike the 
enemy of our Lord. 61 You must abjure them both. . . . 
Do not adore either dead matter, or dead men, or dead 
abstractions. . . . Adore the living Spirit, who sees with- 
out eyes. . . . The communion of the soul with God and 
with the departed saints shall be your true heaven, and 
you must have none other. ... In the spiritual exaltation 
of the soul find the joy and the holiness of heaven. . . . 
Your heaven is not far away ; it is within you. You 
must honour and love all the ancients of the human family 
prophets, saints, martyrs, sages, apostles, missionaries, 
philanthropists of all ages and all countries without caste 
prejudice. Let not the holy men of India monopolize your 
affection and your homage : Render to all prophets the 
devotion and universal affection that is their due. . . . 
Every good and great man is the personification of some 
special element of Truth and Divine Goodness. Sit humbly 
at the feet of all heavenly messengers. . . . Let their 
blood be your blood, their flesh your flesh : . . . Live in 
them and they will live in you* for ever." 
 
Nothing more noble can be imagined. This is the very 
highest expression of universal theism ; and it comes very 
close to the free theism of Europe without any forced act 
 
il The first divinity condemned is easy to define, the idols of 
wood, metal and stone. The second is further defined by " the 
unseen idols of modern scepticism, abstractions, unconscious evolu- 
tion, blind protoplasm, etc." This, then, is scientific or rational or 
Advaitist intellectualism. But Keshab was far from condemning 
real science as is shown by his lecture on The Vision of God in the 
Nineteenth Century. (1879.) 
 
90 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
of allegiance to* revealed religion. It opens its arms to 
all the purified spirits of the whole earth, past, present 
and future ; for the Gospel of Keshab does not claim to 
be the final word of the revelation. " The Indian Scriptures 
are not closed. 52 New chapters are added every year. . . . 
Go ever further in the love and the knowledge of God : . . . 
What the Lord will reveal to us in ten years' time who 
can say, except Himself ? " 
 
But how is this free and broad theism with its serene 
and assured tone to be reconciled to his abasement at 
the feet of Christ in the previous year ? 58 
 
" I must tell you . . . that I am connected with Jesus' 
Gospel, and occupy a prominent place in it. I am the 
prodigal son of whom Christ spoke and I am trying to 
return to my Father in a penitent spirit. Nay, I will say 
more for the satisfaction and edification of my opponents. 
... I am Judas, that vile man who betrayed Jesus . . . 
the veritable Judas who sinned against the truth. And 
Jesus lodges in my heart : . . ." 
 
The overwhelming effect of such a public confession on 
those members of the Brahmo Samaj, who had followed 
their chief up to that point, 54 may be imagined. 
 
But Keshab was still debating with himself. He pro- 
fessed Christ but he denied that he was a " Christian." 65 
He tried to unite Christ to Socrates and to Chiatanya in 
a strange way by thinking of each of them as a part of 
 
81 A favourite idea of Vivekananda may be recognized therein. 
 
" In the sermon : " We, the Apostles of the New Dispensation " 
(1881). 
 
44 That is why their writings about Keshab are very careful (as 
far as I know) to make no mention of such an avowal. 
 
55 " Honour Christ but nevejr be ' Christian ' in the popular accep- 
tation of the term. . . . Christ is not Christianity . . . Let it be 
your ambition to outgrow the popular types of narrow Christian 
faith and merge in the vastness of Christ " : 
 
In an article of the same period called " Other Sheep have I." 
 
" We belong to no Christian sect. We disclaim the Christian 
name. Did the immediate disciples of Christ call themselves Chris- 
tian ? . . . Whoso believes in God and accepts Christ as the Son 
of God has fellowship with Christ in the Lord. . . . Hear his 
words' And other sheep I have. 1 We, the Gentiles of the New 
Dispensation, are the other sheep. The shepherd knows us ... 
Christ has found us and accepted us. ... That is enough. Is 
any Christian greater than Christ ? " 
 
9* 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
his body or of his mind. 66 Nevertheless he instituted the 
sacramental ceremonies of Christianity in his Samaj, adapt- 
ing them to Indian usage. On March 6, 1881, he celebrated 
the Blessed Sacrament with rice and water instead of bread 
and wine, 57 and three months later the sacrament of bap- 
tism, wherein Keshab himself set the example, glorifying 
the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. 
 
Finally in 1882 he took the decisive step. The Christian 
Trinity, of all Christian mysteries, has always been the 
greatest stumbling block for Asia, and an object of repulsion 
or derision. 58 Keshab not only accepted and adopted it, 
but extolled it with gladness 69 and was enlightened by 
it. This mystery seemed to him, and certainly not without 
reason, to be the keystone of the arch of Christian meta- 
physics, the supreme conception of the universe . . . " the 
treasury in which lies the accumulated wealth of the world's 
sacred literature all that is precious in philosophy, theology, 
and poetry (of all humanity) . . . the loftiest expression 
of the world's religious consciousness. . . ." He defines the 
three Persons very exactly, I believe, from an orthodox 
point of view. 60 Did anything still separate him from 
Christianity ? 
 
56 " The Lord Jesus is my will, Socrates my head, Chaitanya my 
heart, the Hindu Rishi my soul and the philanthropic Howard my 
right hand/' 
 
57 Keshab read a verse from St. Luke, and he prayed " that the 
Holy Spirit might turn their grossly material substance into sancti- 
fying spiritual forces so that upon entering our system they might 
be assimilated to it as the flesh and blood of all the saints in Christ 
Jesus." 
 
61 The reason for this is obscure as regards Vedantic India ; for 
she also has her Trinity, and Keshab rightly made it approach 
the Christian Trinity : " Sat, Chit, Ananda " (Being, Knowledge, 
Happiness, which Keshab translated by Truth, Wisdom and Joy), 
the three in one : Satchidananda. 
 
In a lecture of 1882 : " That Marvellous Mystery, the Trinity." 
" Here you have the complete triangular figure of the Trinity. 
The apex is the very God Jehovah. . . . From Him comes down 
the Son . . . and touches one end of the base of humanity . . . 
and then by the power of the Holy Ghost drags up degenerate 
humanity to himself. Divinity coming down to humanity is the 
Son, Divinity carrying humanity to heaven is the Holy Ghost ; this 
is the whole philosophy of salvation. The Creator, the Exemplar, 
and the Sanctifier, I am, I love, I save ; the Still God, the Journey- 
 
92 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
* 
 
Only one thing but it was a world in itself his own mes- 
sage, the Indian Dispensation. He could never bring him- 
self to renounce it. He indeed adopted Christ, but Christ in 
His turn had to adopt India and the Theism of Keshab. 
" Begone, idolatry : Preachers of idol-worship, adieu." 
(This apostrophe was addressed to the West.) Christ is 
the eternal word. " As sleeping Logos Christ lived poten- 
tially in the Father's bosom, long, long before he came 
into this world of ours. ' ' He appeared before his physical life 
in Greece and Rome, in Egypt and in India, in the poets 
of the Rig- Veda, as well as in Confucius and Sakya-Muni ; 
and the role of this Indian apostle of the New Dispen- 
sation was to proclaim his true and universal meaning. 
For after the Son came the Spirit, and " this Church of 
the New Dispensation ... is altogether an institution 
of the Holy Spirit " and completes the Old and the New 
Testaments. 
 
And so no part of this Himalayan theism was lost in 
spite of rude shocks from above and below, which might 
well have undermined its citadel. By a violent effort of 
thought, Keshab achieved the incorporation of Christ within 
it, and covered his own New Dispensation with the name 
of Christ, believing that he was called to reveal the real 
meaning of Christ to Western Christianity. 
 
This was the avowed object of Keshab's last message 
before his death, Asia's message to Europe (1883). " Sec- 
tarian and carnal Europe, put up into the scabbard the 
 
ing God, the Returning God . . ." Keshab. (Cf. the treatises of 
classical Catholic mysticism.) 
 
" The action whereby the Father engenders the Son is well ex- 
plained by the term issuing or coming out . . . Exivi a Patre. The 
Holy Spirit is produced by th% return way. ... It is the divine 
way and subsists in God whereby God returns to himself. ... In 
the same way we come out of God by the creation, which is attri- 
buted to the Father by the Son, we return to him by grace, which 
is the attribute of the Holy Spirit." 
 
(P. Claude Sequenot : Conduite d'Oraison . . . 1634, quoted 
by Henri Br&nond : La Metaphysique des Saints, I, pp. 116- 
 
Surprising though it may seem, Keshab knew the Berullian or 
Salesian philosophy of prayer. In a note of June 30, 1881, on the 
renunciation of John the Baptist, he quotes letters of Francis de 
Sales to Madame de Chantal. 
 
93 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
sword of your narrow faith : Abjure it and join the true 
Catholic and universal Church in the name of Christ the 
Son of God. . . ." 
 
" Christian Europe has not understood one half of Christ's 
words. She has comprehended that Christ and God are 
one, but not that Christ and humanity are one. That is 
the great mystery, which the New Dispensation reveals to 
the world : not only the reconciliation of Man with God ; 
but the reconciliation of man with man : . . . Asia says 
to Europe, ' Sister, Be one in Christ : . . . All that is 
good and true and beautiful the meekness of Hindu Asia, 
the truthfulness of the Musulman and the charity of the 
Buddhist all that is holy is of Christ. 
 
And the new Pope of the new Rome in Asia intones 
the beautiful Song of Atonement. 61 
 
But he was a real Pope, and the unity of reconciled 
mankind had to be according to his doctrine ; in order 
to defend it he always kept the thunderbolt in his hand, 
and he refused all compromise on the subject of the uni- 
theistic principle The Unity of God. 
 
" Science is one. The Church is one/' 
 
His disciple, Mozoomdar, makes him use the denuncia- 
tory words of Christ, but more violently. 
 
" There is only one way. There is no back door into 
heaven. He who enters not by the front door is a thief 
and a robber." 
 
This is the antithesis of the smiling words of kindness 
uttered by Ramakrishna. 62 
 
l " And the new song of Atonement is sung with enthusiasm 
by millions of voices, representing all the various languages of the 
world, millions of souls, each dressed in its national garb of piety 
and righteousness, glowing in an infinite and complete variety of 
colours, shall dance round and round the Father's throne, and 
peace and joy shall reign for ever." 
 
" One day when the young Naren (Vivekananda) denounced 
certain religious sects with his customary impatience, because their 
practices roused his furious disgust, Ramakrishna looked at him 
tenderly and said, " My boy, there is a back door to every house. 
Why should not one have the liberty to enter into a house by that 
if one chooses to ? But, of course, I agree with you that the front 
entrance is the best." 
 
And the biographer of Ramakrishna adds that these simple words 
" modified his Puritanical view of life, which he as a Brahmo had 
 
94 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
The innate need of Unitarian discipline which does not 
tally with religious universalism, and often unwittingly 
merges into spiritual imperialism, led Keshab at the end 
of his life to lay down the code of the New Samhita 68 
(September 2, 1883), containing what he calls " the national 
law of the Aryans of the New Church in India . . . God's 
moral law adapted to the peculiar needs and character of 
reformed Hindus, and based upon their national instincts 
and traditions." It contains in effect a national Unitarian- 
ism One God, one scripture, one baptism, one marriage 
a whole code of injunctions for the family, for the home, 
for business, for study, for amusement, for charity, for 
relationships, etc. But his code is a purely abstract one 
for an Indian that had not yet come into existence, and 
whose advent is doubtful. 
 
Was he himself sure that it would ever come ? The 
entire edifice of voluntary reason rested on uncertain 
foundations, on a nature divided between East and West. 
When illness came 64 the cement was loosened. To whom 
was his soul to belong, Christ or Kali ? On his death-bed 
Ramakrishna, Devendranath his old master to whom he 
was now reconciled, and the Bishop of Calcutta all visited 
him. On January i, 1884, he went out for the last time 
to consecrate a new sanctuary to the Divine Mother, but 
on January 8 his death-bed was enveloped in the words 
of a hymn sung at his own request by one of his disciples 
about Christ's agony in Gethsemane. 
 
It was impossible for a nation of simple souls to find 
their way amid such a constant mental oscillation. But 
it makes Keshab nearer and more appealing to us, who 
can study his most intimate thoughts and can see the 
mental torture accompanying it. It is also true, that the 
kind and penetrating vision of Ramakrishna understood 
better than anybody else the hidden tragedy of a being 
exhausting itself in searching after God, whose body was 
 
held. Sri Ramakrishna taught Naren how to regard mankind in 
the more generous and truer light of weakness and of strength (and 
not of sin or virtue) ." (Life of Vivekananda, Vol. I, Chapter XLVII.) 
 
" Samhita means collection or miscellany. 
 
Diabetes, one of the scourges of Bengal, of which Vivekananda 
also died. 
 
95 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
the prey of the unseen God. 68 But has, a born leader 
any right, even if he keeps his anguish to himself, to yield 
to such oscillations in his very last hours ? They were 
his legacy to the Brahmo Samaj ; and though they enriched 
its spirit they weakened its authority in India for a long 
time, if not for ever. We may well ask with Max Muller 66 
whether the logical outcome of this theism was not to be 
found in Christianity ; and that is exactly what Keshab's 
friends and enemies felt immediately after his death. 
 
His obsequies united in common grief the official repre- 
sentatives of the best minds both of England and of Western- 
ized India. " He was the chain of union between Europe 
and India ; " and the chain once broken, could not be 
resoldered. None of the subsequent moral and religious 
leaders of India have so sincerely given their adherence 
to the heart and spirit of the thought and the God of the 
West. 67 Hence Max Muller could write, " India has lost 
her greatest son." But the Indian Press, while unanimous 
 
* I shall have more to say about the last touching visit of Rama- 
krishna to Keshab and the profound words he poured out like balm 
on the hidden wounds of the dying man. 
 
61 Max Muller in 1900 asked Pratap Chunder Mozoomdar who 
had taken Keshab's place at the head of the Brahmo Samaj and 
who shared the " Christocentric " ideas of his master, why the 
Brahmo did not frankly adopt the name Christian and did not 
organize itself as a national Church of Christ. The idea found a 
response in P. C. Mozoomdar himself and a group of his young 
disciples. One of them, Brahmabandhav Upadhyaya, deserves a 
special study, for he has left a great memory. He passed from 
the Church of the New Dispensation to the Anglican and eventually 
to the Roman Catholic Communion. Another is Manilal C. Parekh, 
the biographer of Keshab, also a convert to Christianity. Both 
are convinced that if Keshab had lived several years longer he 
would have entered the Roman Church. Manilal Parekh says 
" that he was a Protestant in principle and a Catholic in practice 
. . . Christian in spirit, inclining to Monatism " (faith in the supremacy 
of the Holy Spirit). " For myself I believe that Keshab was one 
of those who would have remained at the threshold of the half-open 
door. But it was fatal that his successors opened the door wide." 
 
T The Indian Empire saluted in hiir " the best product of English 
education and Christian civilization in India. 1 ' And The Hindu 
Patriot, " the noble product of the education and the culture of the 
West/' 
 
From the Indian point of view such praise was its own con- 
demnation. 
 
96 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
in acclaiming his genius, was forced to admit that " the 
number of his disciples was not in accordance with his 
desert/ 1 68 
 
He was in fact too far away from the deep-seated soul 
of his people. He wished to raise them all at once to the 
pure heights of his intellect, which had been itself nourished 
by the idealism and the Christ of Europe. In social matters 
none of his predecessors, with the exception of Roy, had 
done so much for her progress ; but he ran counter to the 
rising tide of national consciousness, then feverishly awaken- 
ing. Against him were the three hundred million gods of 
India and three hundred million living beings in whom they 
were incarnate the whole vast jungle of human dreams 
wherein his Western outlook made him miss the track and 
the scent. He invited them to lose themselves in his Indian 
Christ, but his invitation remained unanswered. They did 
not even seem to have heard it. 
 
Indian religious thought raised a purely Indian Samaj 
 
against Keshab's Brahmo Samaj and against all attempts 
 
at Westernization, even during his lifetime, and at its head 
 
was apersonalityof the highest order, Dayananda Sarasvaty 69 
 
'1824-83). 
 
This man with the nature of a lion is one of those whom 
Europe is too apt to forget when she judges India, but whom 
she will probably be forced to remember to her cost ; for 
he was that rare combination, a thinker of action 70 with a 
genius for leadership, like Vivekananda after him. 
 
11 The Hindu Patriot. In 1921 the total number of the members 
of the three Brahmo Samaj as was not more than 6,400 (of which 
4,000 were in Bengal, Assam and Behar-Orissa), a minute number 
in comparison to the members of the Arya Samaj, of which I shall 
speak later, or of the new ^ects purely mystical, such as the 
Radhasvami-Satsang. 
 
M His real name, abandoned by himself, was Mulshanker. 
Sarasvaty was the surname of his Guru, whom he regarded as his 
true father. For Dayananda's life it is necessary to consult the 
classical book of Lajput Rai (the great nationalist Indian leader) : 
and The Arya Samaj, with an introduction by Sidney Webb (Long- 
mans, Green and Co., London, 19*5)- 
 
70 But although the energy of the two men, the immense power 
of their preaching and their irresistible attraction for the masses 
were equal, in Vivekananda's case there was the additional fascina- 
tion of profundity of soul, the desire for pure contemplation, the 
 
97 H 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
While all the religious leaders of whom we have already 
spoken and shall speak in the future were and are from 
Bengal, Dayananda came from quite a different land, the 
one which half a century later gave birth to Gandhi the 
north-west coast of the Arabian Sea. He was born in 
Gujarat at Morvi in the state of Kathiawar, of a rich family 
belonging to the highest grade of Brahmins, 71 no less versed 
in Vedic learning than in mundane affairs, both political 
and commercial. His father took part in the Govern- 
ment of the little native state. He was rigidly orthodox 
according to the letter of the law, with a stern domineering 
character, and this last to his sorrow he passed on to his 
son. 
 
As a child Dayananda was therefore brought up under 
the strictest Brahmin rule, and at the age of eight was 
invested with the sacred thread and all the severe moral 
obligations entailed by this privilege rigorously enforced 
by his family. 72 It seemed as if he was to become a pillar 
of orthodoxy in his turn, but instead he became the Samson, 
who pulled down the pillars of the temple ; a striking 
example among a hundred others of the vanity of human 
effort, when it imagines that it is possible by a superimposed 
education to fashion the mind of the rising generation 
and so dispose of the future. The most certain result is 
revolt. 
 
That of Dayananda is worth recording. When he was 
fourteen his father took him to the temple to celebrate the 
great festival of Shiva. He had to pass the night after a 
strict fast in pious vigil and prayer. The rest of the faithful 
went to sleep. The young boy alone resisted its spell. 
Suddenly he saw a mouse nibbling the offerings to the 
God and running over Shiva's bofly. It was enough. There 
is no doubt about moral revolt in the heart of a child. In a 
 
bent of the inner being towards constant flights against which 
the necessity for action had always to struggle. Dayananda did 
not know this tragic division of soul. Nevertheless he was all that 
was required for the task he had to accomplish. 
 
T1 Samavedi, the highest order of Brahmins in the Veda. 
 
Tt The vows of Brahmacharya, chastity, purity, poverty through- 
out student life, and the obligation to recite the Vedas daily, and 
to live according to a whole system of regular and very strict 
rites. 
 
98 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
second his faith in the idol was shattered for the rest of his 
life. He left the temple, went home alone through the 
night, and thenceforward refused to participate 78 in the 
religious rites. 
 
It marked the beginning of a terrible struggle between 
father and son. Both were of an unbending and autocratic 
will which barred the door to any mutual concession. At 
nineteen Dayananda ran away from home to escape from 
a forced marriage. He was caught and imprisoned. He 
fled again, this time for ever (1845). He never saw his 
father again. 
 
For fifteen years this son of a rich Brahmin, despoiled 
of everything and subsisting on alms, wandered as a Sadhu 
clad in the saffron robe along the roads of India. This 
again seems like a first edition of Vivekananda's life and 
his pilgrimage as a young man over the length and breadth 
of Hindustan. Like him Dayananda went in search of 
learned men, ascetics, studying here philosophy, there the 
Vedas, learning the theory and practice of Yoga. Like him 
he visited almost all the holy places of India and took part 
in religious debates. Like him he suffered, he braved 
fatigue, insult and danger, and this contact with the body 
of his fatherland lasted four times longer than Vivekananda's 
experience. In contradistinction to the latter, however, 
Dayananda remained far from the human masses through 
which he passed, for the simple reason that he spoke nothing 
but Sanskrit throughout this period. He was indeed what 
Vivekananda would have been if he had not encountered 
Ramakrishna and if his high aristocratic and Puritan pride 
had not been curbed by the indulgent kindness and rare 
spirit of comprehension of this most human of Gurus. 
Dayananda did not see, did flot wish to see, anything round 
him but superstition and ignorance, spiritual laxity, degrad- 
ing prejudices and the millions of idols he abominated. At 
length, about 1860, he found at Mathura an old Guru even 
more implacable than himself in his condemnation of all 
weakness and his hatred of superstition, a Sannyasin blind 
from infancy and from the age of eleven quite alone in the 
world, a learned man, a terrible man, Swami Virjananda 
 
Ti At the present time this night is kept as a festival by the Arya 
Samaj. 
 
99 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
Saraswaty . Dayananda put himself under bis ' ' discipline " 74 
which in its old literal seventeenth century sense scarred his 
flesh as well as his spirit. Dayananda served this untamable 
and indomitable man for two and a half years as his pupil. 
It is therefore mere justice to remember that his subsequent 
course of action was simply the fulfilment of the will of the 
stern blind man, whose surname he adopted, casting his 
own to oblivion. When they separated Vir j ananda extracted 
from him the promise that he would consecrate his life to 
the annihilation of the heresies that had crept into the 
Puranic faith, to re-establish the ancient religious methods 
of the age before Buddha, and to disseminate the truth. 
 
Dayananda immediately began to preach in Northern 
India, but unlike the benign men of God who open all heaven 
before the eyes of their hearers, he was a hero of the Iliad 
or of the Gita with the athletic strength of a Hercules, 76 
who thundered against all forms of thought other than his 
own, the only true one. He was so successful that in five 
years Northern India was completely changed. During 
these five years his life was attempted four or five times 
sometimes by poison. Once a fanatic threw a cobra at 
his face in the name of Shiva, but he caught it and crushed 
it. It was impossible to get the better of him ; for he 
possessed an unrivalled knowledge of Sanskrit and the 
Vedas, 76 while the burning vehemence of his words brought 
his adversaries to naught. They likened him to a flood. 
Never since Sankara had such a prophet of Vedism appeared. 
The orthodox Brahmins, completely everwhelmed, appealed 
from him to Benares, their Rome. Dayananda went there 
fearlessly, and undertook in November, 1869, a Homeric 
contest. Before millions of assailants, all eager to bring 
him to his knees, he argued f of hours together alone against 
 
74 Discipline in the ecclesiastical language of an earlier age meant 
not only supervision, but the instrument used by ascetics to scourge 
themselves. 
 
T His exploits have become legendary. He stopped with one 
hand a carriage with two runaway horses. He tore the naked 
sword out of an adversary's hand and broke it in two, etc. His 
thunderous voice could make itself heard above any tumult. 
 
7 * " A very learned Sanskrit scholar/' is the opinion of a man, 
himself a master of exegesis of the Hindu Scriptures, Aurobindo 
Ghose. (Cf. Arya Review, No. 4, Pondicherry, November 15, 1914, 
" The Secret of the Veda.") 
 
100 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
three hundred pandits the whole front line and the reserve 
of Hindu orthodoxy. 77 He proved that the Vedanta as 
practised was diametrically opposed to the primitive Vedas. 
He claimed that he was going back to the true Word, the 
pure Law of two thousand years earlier. They had not 
the patience to hear him out. He was hooted down and 
excommunicated. A void was created round him, but 
the echo of such a combat in the style of the Mahabharata 
spread throughout the country, so that his name became 
famous over the whole of India. 
 
At Calcutta, where he stayed from December 15, 1872, 
to April 15, 1873, Ramakrishna met him. He was also 
cordially received by the Brahmo Samaj Keshab and his 
people voluntarily shut their eyes to the differences existing 
between them ; they saw in him a rough ally in their crusade 
against orthodox prejudices and the millions of gods. But 
Dayananda was not a man to come to an understanding 
with religious philosophers imbued with Western ideas. 
His national Indian Theism, its steel faith forged from the 
pure metal of the Vedas alone, had nothing in common with 
theirs, tinged as it was with modern doubt, which denied 
the infallibility of the Vedas and the doctrine of trans- 
migration. 78 He broke with them 79 the richer for the 
encounter, for he owed them 80 the very simple suggestion, 
 
77 A Christian missionary present at this tournament has left an 
excellent and impartial account of it, reproduced by Lajput Rai 
in his book. (Christian Intelligence, Calcutta, March, 1870.) 
 
78 These two, according to Lajput Rai, himself affiliated to the 
Arya Samaj, are " the two cardinal principles which distinguish 
the Arya Samaj from the Brahmo Samaj." 
 
It must be remembered that twenty years before Dayananda 
(1844-46), Devendranath had ajso been tempted by the faith in 
the infallibility of the Vedas, but that he had renounced it in favour 
of direct and personal union with God. He was, it is said, of all 
the chiefs of the Brahmo Samaj the one nearest to Dayananda. 
But agreement was impossible. Devendranath, whose ideal was 
peace and harmony, could have no real sympathy with this perpetual 
warrior, armed with hard dogmatism and applying methods of pure 
scholasticism to the most modern social conflicts. 
 
79 In 1877 a last attempt was made to find a basis of agreement 
between the religious leaders and their divergent doctrines. Keshab 
and Dayananda met again, but agreement was impossible, since 
Dayananda would yield nothing. 
 
io To Babu Keshab Chunder Sen. 
 
101 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
whose practical value had not struck him' before, that his 
propaganda would be of little effect unless it was delivered 
in the language of the people. He went to Bombay, where 
shortly afterwards his sect, following the example of the 
Brahmo Samaj but with a better genius of organization, 
proceeded to take root in the social life of India. On April 
10, 1875, he founded at Bombay his first Arya Samaj, or 
Association of the Aryans of India, the pure Indians, the 
descendants of the old conquering race of the Indus and the 
Ganges. And it was exactly in those districts that it took 
root most strongly. From 1877, the year when its principles 
were definitely laid down at Lahore, to 1883, Dayananda 
spread a close network over Northern India, Rajputana, 
Gujarat, the United Provinces of Agra and Oude, and above 
all in the Punjab, which remained his chosen land. Prac- 
tically the whole of India was affected. The only Province 
where his influence failed to make itself felt was Madras. 81 
 
He fell, struck down in his prime, by an assassin. The 
concubine of a Maharajah, whom the stern prophet had 
denounced, poisoned him. He died at Ajmer on October 
30, 1883. 
 
But his work pursued its uninterrupted and triumphant 
course. From 40,000 in 1891 the number of its members 
rose to 100,000 in 1901, to 243,000 in 1911, and to 468,000 
in 1921. 82 Some of the most important Hindu personalities, 
politicians and Maharajahs, belonged to it. Its spontaneous 
and impassioned success in contrast to the slight reverbera- 
tions of Keshab's Brahmo Samaj, shows the degree to which 
Dayananda's stern teachings corresponded to the thought 
of his country and to the first stirrings of Indian nationalism, 
to which he contributed. ^ 
 
It may perhaps be useful to remind Europe of the reasons 
at the bottom of this national awakening, now in full flood. 
 
Westernization was going too far, and was not always 
revealed by its best side. Intellectually it had become 
rather a frivolous attitude of mind, which did away with 
 
1 This is all the more striking since it was in Madras that Vive- 
kananda found his most ardent and best organized disciples. 
 
11 Of whom 223,000 are in the Punjab and Delhi, 205,000 in the 
United Provinces, 223,000 in Kashmir, 4,500 in Behar. In short, it 
is the expression of Northern India and one of its most energetic 
elements. 
 
102 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
the need for independence of thought, and transplanted 
young intelligences from their proper environment, teaching 
them to despise the genius of their irace. The instinct for 
self-preservation revolted. Dayananda's generation had 
watched, as he had done, not without anxiety, suffering, 
and irritation, the gradual infiltration into the veins of India 
of superficial European rationalism on the one hand, whose 
ironic arrogance understood nothing of the depths of the 
Indian spirit, and on the other hand, of a Christianity, which 
when it entered family life fulfilled only too well Christ's 
prophecy : " That He had come to bring division between 
father and son. ..." 
 
It is certainly not for us to depreciate Christian influences. 
I am a Catholic by birth, and as such have known the taste 
of Christ's blood and enjoyed the storehouse of profound 
life, revealed in the books and in the lives of great Christians, 
although I am outside all exclusive forms of church and 
religion. Hence I do not dream of subordinating such a 
faith to any other faith whatsoever ; when the soul has 
reached a certain pitch ocumen mentis 8S it can go no 
further. Unfortunately the religion of one country does not 
always work upon alien races through its best elements. 
Too often questions of human pride are intermingled with 
the desire for earthly conquest, and, provided victory is 
attained, the view is too often held that the end justifies the 
means. I will go further and say that, even in its highest 
presentation, it is very rare that one religion takes possession 
of the spirit of another race in its deepest essence at the final 
pitch of the soul, of which I have just spoken. It does so 
rather by aspects, very significant no doubt, but secondary 
in importance. Those of us who have pored over the won- 
derful system of Christiaif metaphysics and sounded their 
depths, know what infinite spaces they offer to the soaring 
wings of the spirit, and that the Divine Cosmos they present 
of the Being and the Love cleaving to Him is no whit less 
vast or less sublime than the conception of the Vedantic 
Infinite. But if a Keshab caught a glimpse of this, a Keshab 
was an exception among his people, and it would seem that 
 
To use the phrase of Richard de Saint-Victor and Western 
mystics to Francois de Sales. (Cf. Henri Br&nond : The Meta- 
physics of the Saints.) 
 
103 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
Christianity is very rarely manifested to Hindus under this 
aspect. It is presented to them rather as a code of ethics, 
of practical action, as love in action, if such a term is per- 
missible, and though this is a very important aspect it is not 
the greatest. 84 It is a remarkable fact that the most notable 
conversions have taken place in the ranks of active and 
energetic personalities rather than in those of deep spiritual 
contemplation of men capable of heroic flights of soul. 85 
. Whether this is true or not, and it provides an ample theme 
for discussion, it is a historic fact that when Dayananda's 
mind was in process of being formed, the highest religious 
spirit of India had been so weakened that the religious spirit 
of Europe threatened to extinguish its feeble flame without 
the satisfaction of substituting its own. The Brahmo Samaj 
was troubled by it, but was itself willy-nilly stamped with 
Western Christianity. Ram Mohun Roy's starting point 
had been Protestant Unitarian. Devendranath, although he 
denied it, had not the strength to prevent its intrusion into 
the Samaj, when he yielded the ascendancy to Keshab, 
already three parts given over to it. As early as 1880 one 
of Keshab's critics 86 could say that " those who believe in 
him have lost the name of theists, because they lean more 
and more towards Christianity." However precisely the 
position of the third Brahmo Samaj (the Sadharan Brahmo 
Samaj detached from Keshab) had been defined as against 
Indian Christianity, Indian public opinion could feel no con- 
fidence in a church undermined by two successive schisms 
within the space of half a century, and threatened, as we 
 
14 1 myself independently and intuitively belong to the side of 
Salesian Theocentrism, as represented by M. Henri Bremond in a 
recent polemic against the religious moralism or anti-mysticism of 
M. 1'Abbe Vincent. (Cf. op cit., Vol. I, pp. 26-47.) 
 
' The Sadhu Sundar Singh, whose name is well-known in Europe 
among Protestants, is a good example. A Punjab Sikh, the son 
of a Sirdar and brother of a commander in the army, this intrepid 
man delighted in seeking and braving martyrdom in Tibet, where 
he found traces of other Christian martyrs belonging to the two 
warlike races, the Sikhs and the Afghans. (Cf . Max Schaerer : 
Sadhu Sunday Singh, 1922, Zurich.) To judge of him from this 
pamphlet, it would appear that in speaking of the other religions 
of India, he had never penetrated to the core of their thought. 
 
" Cf. Frank Lillington : The Brahmo and the Arya in their relations 
to Christianity, 1901. 
 
104 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
have seen, during the next half century with complete 
absorption in Christianity. 
 
The enthusiastic reception accorded to the thunderous 
champion of the Vedas, a Vedist belonging to a great race 
and penetrated with the sacred writings of ancient India 
and with her heroic spirit, is then easily explained. He 
alone hurled the defiance of India against her invaders. 
Dayananda declared war on Christianity and his heavy 
massive sword cleft it asunder with scant reference to the 
scope or exactitude of his blows. He put it to the test of 
a vengeful, unjust and injurious criticism, which fastened 
upon each separate verse of the Bible and was blind and 
deaf to its real, its religious, and even its literal meaning 
(for he read the Bible in a Hindi translation and in a hurry). 
His slashing commentaries, 87 reminiscent of Voltaire and his 
Dictionnaire Philosophique,ha.ve unfortunately remained the 
arsenal for the spiteful anti-Christianity of certain modern 
Hindus. 88 Nevertheless, as Glasnapp rightly remarks, they 
are of paramount interest for European Christianity, which 
ought to know what is the image of itself as presented by 
its Asiatic adversaries. 
 
Dayananda had no greater regard for the Koran and the 
Puranas, and trampled underfoot the body of Brahman 
orthodoxy. He had no pity for any of his fellow country- 
men, past or present, who had contributed in any way to 
the thousand year decadence of India, at one time the mis- 
tress of the world. 89 He was a ruthless critic of all who, 
according to him, had falsified or profaned the true Vedic 
 
7 Contained in his great work, written in Hindi, Satyartha- 
Prakash (The Torch of Truth). 
 
Notably the neo-Buddhists^for, difficult though it is to believe 
the beautiful name of Buddha, originally symbolizing the spirit of 
detachment and universal peace, is well on the way in these days 
to become the standard of an aggressive propaganda having scant 
respect for other beliefs. 
 
i His panorama of Indian History is an interesting one, a kind 
of impassioned Discourse of Universal History, to allude to a cele- 
brated work of Bossuet of the seventeenth century. It traces the 
origin of humanity and the domination of India over the entire 
globe (including America and the Oceanic Islands ; for according 
to him, the Nagas (serpents) and the infernal spirits of the legends 
are the people of the Antipodes ; just so the struggles with the 
Asuras and the Rakshasas mean the wars with the Assyrians and 
 
105 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
religion. 90 He was a Luther fighting against his own misled 
and misguided Church of Rome ; 81 and his first care was 
to throw open the wells of the holy books, so that for the 
first time his people could come to them and drink for them- 
selves. He translated and wrote commentaries on the Vedas 
in the vernacular 9a it was in truth an epoch-making date 
for India when a Brahmin not only acknowledged that all 
human beings have the right to know the Vedas, whose 
study had been previously prohibited by orthodox Brahmans, 
but insisted that their study and propaganda was the duty 
of every Arya. 98 
 
the negroids). Dayananda replaces the whole of Mythology upon 
the earth. He dates all the misfortunes of India and the ruin of 
the great spirit of the Vedas to the wars of ten times a Hundred 
Years, sung by the Mahabharata, wherein heroic India destroyed 
herself. . . . He is filled with hatred, not only against the materia- 
lism which resulted, but against Jainism, the suborner. For him 
Sankara was the glorious though unfortunate hero of the first war 
of Hindu independence in the realm of the soul. He wished to 
break the bonds of heresy, but he failed. He died by assassination 
in the midst of his campaigns for freedom, but he himself remained 
caught by Jainistic decoys, particularly by Maya, which inspired 
in Dayananda no dreamer of dreams but a man firmly implanted 
in the soil of reality an invincible repugnance. 
 
o He called all idolatry a sin, and considered that divine incarna- 
tions were absurd and sacrilegious. 
 
91 He scourged the Brahmins with the name of " Popes." 
 
fl Between 1876 and 1883 he directed a whole train of Pandits. 
He wrote in Sanskrit and the pandits translated into the dialects. 
He alone, however, translated the original text. His translation, 
which he had no time to revise, is always preceded by a grammatical 
and etymological analysis of each verse, followed by a commentary 
explaining the general sense. 
 
Article III of the Ten Principles of Lahore (1877) " The 
Vedas are the book of true knowledge. The first duty of every Arya 
is to learn them and to teach them." 
 
By a strange accident Dayananda concluded a political alliance 
lasting several years (1879-81) with a Western community, destined 
for a great work, the Theosophical Society, on the basis of his 
vindication of the Vedas against the rising flood of Christianity. 
The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 in the South of 
India by a Russian, Mme. Blavatsky, and an American, Colonel 
Olcptt, and had the great merit of stimulating the Hindus to study 
their sacred Texts, especially the Gita and the Upanishads, six 
volumes of which Colonel Olcott published in Sanskrit. It also 
headed the movement for the establishment of Indian schools, 
especially in Ceylon, and even dared to open schools for " untouch- 
 

106

 

THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
It is true that his translation was an interpretation, and 
that there is much to criticize with regard to accuracy' 94 as 
well as with regard to the rigidity of the dogmas and prin- 
ciples he drew from the text, the absolute infallibility claimed 
for the one book, which according to him had emanated 
direct from the "pre-human" or superhuman Divinity, 
his denials from which there was no appeal, his implacable 
condemnations, his theism of action, his credo of battle, 95 
and finally his national God. 98 
 
But in default of outpourings of the heart and the calm 
 
ables." It therefore contributed to the national, religious, and social 
awakening of India ; and Dayananda seemed about to make common 
cause with it. But when the Society took him at his word and 
offered him its regular co-operation, he refused its offer, thereby 
taking away from the Theosophical Society all chance of spiritual 
dominion over India. It has since played a secondary part, but 
has been useful from the social point of view, if the establishment 
in 1889 of the Central Hindu College at Benares is to be attributed 
to the influence of Mrs. Besant. The Anglo-American element, 
preponderant in its strange mixture of East and West, has twisted 
in a curious way the vast and liberal system of Hindu metaphysics 
by its spirit of noble but limited pragmatism. Further, it must be 
added that it has given itself a kind of pontifical and infallible 
authority, allowing of no appeal, which though veiled is none the 
less implacable, and has appeared in this light to independent minds 
such as that of Vivekananda, who, as we shall see, on his return 
from America categorically denounced it. 
 
On this subject there is an article by G. E. Monod Heraen, written 
in its favour : " An Indo-European Influence, the Theosophical 
Society " (Feuilles de I'lnde, No. i, Paris, 1928), and a brilliant, 
comprehensive, and malicious chapter by Count H. Von Keyserling 
in hifc Travel Diary of a Philosopher, 1918. 
 
4 But not his passionate loyalty, which remains proof against 
all attack. The extreme difficulty of the task must also be taken 
into consideration at a time^yhen a knowledge of the philosophy 
of the Vedas was much rarer in India than at the present time. 
 
* Among rules to be followed as set down at the end of his 
Satyartha Prakash, Dayananda orders : " Seek to combat, to 
humiliate, to destroy the wicked, even the rulers of the world, the 
men in power. Seek constantly to sap the power of the unjust 
and to strengthen that of the just even at the cost of terrible 
sufferings, of death itself, which no man should seek to avoid." 
 
" The Samaj will glorify, pray to and unite with the One and 
only God, as shown by the Vedas. . . . The conception of God 
and the objects of the Universe is founded solely on the teachings 
of the Veda and the other true Shastras," which he enumerated. 
 
It is, however, curious (so strong was the current of the age, 
 
107 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
sun of the spirit, bathing the nations of men 1 and their gods 
in its effulgence, in default of the warm poetry radiating 
from the entire being of a Ramakrishna or the grandiose 
poetic style of a Vivekananda, Dayananda transfused into 
the languid body of India his own formidable energy, his 
certainty, his lion's blood. His words rang with heroic 
power. He reminded the secular passivity of a people, too 
prone to bow to fate, that the soul is free and that action 
is the generator of destiny. 97 He set the example of a 
setting at all cost towards unity) that Dayananda's nationalism 
like the unitarianism of Roy and Keshab had universal pretensions. 
 
" The well-being of humanity as a whole ought to be the objective 
of the Samaj." (Principles of the first Arya Samaj of 1875.) 
 
" The primary object of the Samaj is to do good to the whole world 
by bettering the physical, spiritual and social condition of humanity." 
(Principles of the Arya Samaj of Lahore, revised in 1875.) 
 
" I believe in a religion based on universal principles and embracing 
all that has been accepted as truth by humanity and that will 
continue to be obeyed in the ages to come. This is what I call 
religion : Eternal primitive Religion (for it is above the hostility of 
human beliefs). . . . That alone which is worthy to be believed by 
all men and in all ages, I hold as acceptable." (Satyartha Prakash.) 
 
Like all impassioned believers, but in perfect good faith, he con- 
founds the conception of the eternal and universal " Truth," which 
he claimed to serve, with that of the faith he decreed. He was 
careful to submit the criterion of truth to five preliminary tests, 
the first two in conformity with the teachings of the Vedas and to 
the definitions he had laid down concerning the nature of God and 
His attributes. How could he doubt his right to impose the Vedas 
upon humanity as a whole, when he started by decreeing that they 
contained, as Aurobindo Ghose says, " an integral revelation of 
religious truth, both ethical and scientific ? According to birri the 
Vedic gods were nothing but impersonations describing the one 
Divinity, and names of his powers, such as we see them in the works 
of Nature. True knowledge of the meaning of the Vedas corresponds 
then to the knowledge of scientific ^truths discovered by modern 
research." (Aurobindo Ghose : " The Secret of the Veda," Arya 
Review, No. 4, November 15, 1914, Pondicherry.) 
 
Dayananda's national exegesis of Vedism let loose a flood of 
pamphlets, whose object was to restore and reawaken the philo- 
sophies, cults, rites and practices of ancient India. There was a 
passionate reaction of antique ideals against the ideas of the West. 
(Cf. Prdbuddha Bharata, November, 1928.) 
 
7 " An energetic and active life is preferable to the acceptance 
of the decrees of destiny. Destiny is the outcome of deeds. Deeds 
are the creators of destiny. Virtuous activity is superior to passive 
resignation. . . ." 
 
" The soul is a free agent, free to act as it pleases. But it depends 
 
108 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
complete clearance of all the encumbering growth of privilege 
and prejudice by a series of hatchet blows. If his meta- 
physics were dry and obscure, 98 if his theology was narrow 
and in my opinion retrograde, his social activities and 
practices were of intrepid boldness. With regard to questions 
of fact he went further than the Brahmo Samaj, and even 
further than the Ramakrishna Mission ventures to-day. 
 
His creation, the Arya Samaj, postulates in principle equal 
justice for all men and all nations, together with equality 
of the sexes. It repudiates a hereditary caste system, and 
only recognizes professions or guilds, suitable to the com- 
plimentary aptitudes of men in society ; religion was to 
have no part in these divisions, but only the service of the 
state, which assesses the tasks to be performed. The state 
alone, if it considers it for the good of the community, can 
raise or degrade a man from one caste to another by way 
of reward or punishment. Dayananda wished every man 
to have the opportunity to acquire as much knowledge as 
would enable him to raise himself in the social scale as high 
as he was able. Above all he would not tolerate the abomin- 
able injustice of the existence of untouchables, and nobody 
has been a more ardent champion of their outraged rights. 
They were admitted to the Arya Samaj on a basis of equality ; 
for the Aryas are not a caste. " The Aryas are all men of 
superior principles ; and the Dasyas are they who lead a 
life of wickedness and sin." 
 
Dayananda was no less generous and no less bold in his 
crusade to improve the condition of women, a deplorable 
one in India. He revolted against the abuses from which 
they suffered, recalling that in the heroic age they occupied 
 
on the grace of God for the enjoyment of the fruit of its actions." 
(Satyartha Prakash.) * 
 
98 Dayananda distinguishes, it seems, three eternal substances 
God, the Soul and Prakriti, the material cause of the universe. 
God and the Soul are two distinct entities : they have attributes 
which are not interchangeable and each accomplishes certain 
functions. They are, however, inseparable. The Creation, the 
essential exercise of Divine energy, is accomplished over primordial 
elements, which it combines and orders. The terrestrial bondage 
of the soul is caused by ignorance. Salvation is emancipation from 
error and the attainment of the freedom of God. But it is only for 
a time, at the end of which the soul retakes another body . . . etc." 
(Ibid., passim.) 
 
109 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
in the home and in society a position at least equal to men. 
They ought to have equal education," according to him, 
and supreme control in marriage over household matters 
including the finances. Dayananda in fact claimed equal 
rights in marriage for men and women, and though he 
regarded marriage as indissoluble, he admitted the re- 
marriage of widows, and went so far as to envisage a tem- 
porary union for women as well as for men for the purpose 
of having children, if none had resulted from marriage. 
 
Lastly the Arya Samaj', whose eighth principle was " to 
diffuse knowledge and dissipate ignorance," has played a 
great part in the education of India. Especially in the 
Punjab and the United Provinces it has founded a host of 
schools for girls and boys. Their laborious hives are grouped 
round two model establishments : 10 the Dayananda Anglo- 
Vedic College of Lahore and the Gurukula of Kangri, national 
bulwarks of Hindu education, which seek to resuscitate the 
energies of the race and to use at the same time the intellectual 
and technical conquests of the West. 101 
 
To these let us add philanthropic activities, such as orphan- 
ages, workshops for boys and girls, homes for widows, and 
great works of social service at the time of public calamities, 
epidemics, famine, etc., and it is obvious that the Arya 
Samaj is the rival of the future Ramakrishna Mission. 102 
 
ff In marriage the minimum age was to be sixteen for girls and 
twenty-five for boys. Dayananda was resolutely opposed to infant 
marriage. 
 
100 This was our information ten years ago at the date of the 
publication of Lajput Rai's book. From that date the educational 
movement has probably continued to expand. 
 
lil The Dayananda Anglo-Vedic College of Lahore, opened in 
1886, combines instruction in Sanskrit, Hindi, Persian, English, 
Oriental and European Philosophy History, Political Economy, 
Science, arts and crafts. The Gurukula is a school founded in 
1902, where the children take the vow of poverty, chastity and 
obedience for sixteen years. Its object is to reform Aryan character 
by Hindu Philosophic and literary culture, vivified by moral energy. 
There is also a great college for girls in the Punjab, where feminine 
subjects and domestic economy are united to intellectual studies 
and the knowledge of three languages, Sanskrit, Hindu and English. 
 
101 It would appear that in this respect Vivekananda and his 
disciples have outstripped him. The first activities of social service 
noted by Lajput Rai as undertaken by the Arya Samaj, were help 
in the famine of 1897-98. From 1894 onwards one of Vivekananda's 
 
110 
 
 
 
THE BUILDERS OF UNITY 
 
I have said enough about this rough Sannyasin with the 
soul of a leader, to show how great an uplifter of the peoples 
he was in fact the most vigorous force of the immediate 
and present action in India at the moment of the rebirth 
and reawakening of the national consciousness. His Arya 
Samaj, whether he wished it or no, 108 prepared the way in 
1905 for the revolt of Bengal to which we shall allude again. 
He was one of the most ardent prophets of reconstruction 
and of national organization. I feel that it was he who 
kept the Vigil ; but his strength was also his weakness. His 
purpose in life was action and its object his nation. For a 
people lacking the vision of wider horizons the accomplish- 
ment of the action and the creation of the nation might 
perhaps be enough. But not for India before her will still 
lie the universe. 
 
monks, Ajhandananda, devoted himself to works of social service. 
In 1897 part of the Ramakrishna Mission was mobilized against 
famine and malaria, and the following year against the plague. 
 
108 He forbade it in public ; he always claimed to be non-political 
and non-anti-British. But the British Government judged differ- 
ently. The Arya Samaj found itself compromised by the activity 
of its members. It was one of them, Lajput Rai, whose arrest 
provoked the most serious risings of 1907-08. And it should be 
recalled here that the same Lajput Rai, the nationalist hero of 
India, constantly imprisoned, exiled, persecuted, recently died at 
Lahore (December, 1928) as the result of a collision with the British 
police during demonstrations in favour of Indian political inde- 
pendence. 
 
 
 
Ill 
 
 
 
VII 
 
RAMAKRISHNA AND THE KING-SHEPHERDS OF INDIA 
 
SUCH then were the great shepherds of the people, the 
king-pastors of India, at the moment when the star 
of Ramakrishna appeared in cloudless glory above the 
mountains. l 
 
Naturally he could not have known the first of these 
four men, the forerunner, Ram Mohun Roy, but he knew 
the other three personally. He first visited them, urged 
by that overwhelming thirst for God, which made him 
always ask himself Are there no more of His wells, which 
these have found and from which I have not drunk ? But 
his practised eye judged them at sight. His critical faculties 
were never abrogated. As he leant over them to taste 
 
1 1 have only mentioned the greatest. There were many others. 
India has never lacked messengers of God, founders of sects or 
religions, and they were continually appearing throughout the 
period. In the recent treatise by Helmuth von Glasenapp : Re- 
ligidse Reformbewegungen in heutigen Indien (1928, Leipzig, J. C. 
Hinrich, Morgenland collection), there is an account of the two most 
curious : the Atheistic Church of the Superman, the Dev-Samaj, 
and the Mystical Church of the Divine Sound (or Word), the Radhas- 
vami-Satsang. The question is of the mysterious word which stands 
for the Almighty Being (and which is no longer the famous Vedic M 
delegated to an inferior place) the Divine Sound that vibrates 
through the Universe the spoken *narmony, whence is derived the 
" Music of the Spheres " (to quote the old language of Greco-Roman 
antiquity). It is to be found under rather a different form in the 
mysticism of the Maitrayani Upanishad. They are not included 
here because they belong to rather a later date. The Dev-Samaj, 
though founded in 1887 by Shiva Narayana Agnihotra, only adopted 
the name " Superhuman " atheism after 1894 ; and its violent 
struggle against God, fought in the name of reason, morality and 
science, by a " Superman," the Dev-Guru (the founder in person), 
whose initial step was to make himself the object of worship, is to-day 
in full swing. As for the Radhasvami-Satsang, founded by a trinity 
of successive, but indistinguishable holy Gurus, whose deaths 
 
112 
 
 
 
RAMAKRISHNA AND THE KING-SHEPHERDS OF INDIA 
 
them with thirsty devotion, he often laughed mischievously, 
and rose with the words that his own were better. He was 
not the man to be dazzled by outward show, glory or 
eloquence. His veiled eye did not blink unless the light 
he sought, the face of God Himself, shone from the depths. 
They could penetrate through the walls of the body as 
through a window-pane and searched the very heart with 
eager curiosity. But what they found there sometimes 
provoked a sudden quiet outburst of hilarity untinged with 
malice from this indiscreet visitor. 
 
The story of his visit to the imposing Devendranath 
Tagore, as told by himself, is a titbit of comedy, wherein 
the critical humour and the disrespectful respect of the 
"little brother" towards the great pontiff, the "King 
Janaka," have free play. 
 
" Is it possible/' a questioner asked him one day, 2 " to 
reconcile the world and God ? What do you think of 
Maharshi Devendranath Tagore ? " 
 
Ramakrishna repeated softly, " Devendranath Tagore . . . 
Devendranath . . . Devendra . . ." and he bowed several 
times. Then he said, 
 
" Do you know what he is ? Once upon a time there 
 
occurred in 1878, 1898 and 1907 respectively, it is only since the 
end of the last century that their doctrine has become firmly estab- 
lished. We need not therefore take it into consideration in this 
account. The seat of the Dev-Samaj is at Lahore, and almost all 
its adherents are in the Punjab. The two chief centres of the 
Radhasvami-Satsang are Allahabad and Agra. Hence it is to be 
noted that both belong to Northern India. Glasenapp says nothing 
of the appearance of new religions in Southern India, but they were 
no less numerous. Such was the religion of the great Guru, Sri 
Narayana, whose beneficent spiritual activity was exercised for more 
than forty years in the state of Tjravancore over some million f aithf ul 
souls (he has just died in 1928). His doctrine was impregnated with 
monist metaphysics of Sankara, but tended to practical action 
showing very marked differences from Bengal mysticism whose 
Bhakta effusions filled him with mistrust. He preached, if one may 
say so, a Jnanin of action, a great intellectual religion, having a very 
lively sense of the people and their social needs. It has greatly 
contributed to the uplifting of the oppressed classes in Southern 
India and its activities have in a measure been allied to those of 
Gandhi. (Cf. articles by his disciple, P. Natarajan, in the Sufi 
Quarterly, Geneva, December, 1928, and the following months.) 
 
1 Keshab Chunder Sen. The conversation is reported by an eye- 
witness, A. Kumar Dutt. (Life of Ramakrishna.) 
 
113 * 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
was a man, whose custom it was to celebrate the feast of 
Durga Puja with great pomp. Goats were sacrificed from 
morning till night. After some years the sacrifice lost its 
brilliancy. Somebody asked the man why it was so greatly 
reduced, and the man replied, ' I have lost my teeth now ! ' 
 
" And so," continued the irreverent story-teller, "it is 
quite natural that Devendranath should practise meditation 
at his advanced age/ 1 8 
 
He paused. ... " But," he added, bowing once more, 
" he is undoubtedly a very illustrious man. . . ." 
 
Then he recounted his visit. 4 
 
" At first when I saw him, I thought him rather proud. 
Oh ! It was natural ! He was overwhelmed by so many 
good things : nobility, prestige, riches. . . . Suddenly I 
found myself in the state when I can see through a man. 
 
8 It must be admitted that Ramakrishna's irony did Devendranath 
a grave injustice. It did not take into account, probably through 
ignorance, the absolute disinterestedness of the Maharshi and his 
years of noble and difficult sacrifice. In this I see the attitude of a 
man of the people to a great aristocrat. 
 
Another account, given by Sashi Bhusan Ghosh in his Memoirs 
written in Bengali (pp. 245-47), lessens the irony without diminishing 
the penetration of Ramakrishna, so that justice is better done to 
the royal idealist. 
 
Ramakrishna said that he was introduced to Devendranath with 
the words, " Here is a mad man of God 1 " " Devendranath seemed 
to me to be concentrated upon his own ego, but why should he not 
have been so concentrated, when he enjoyed so much knowledge, 
renown, riches and unanimous respect ? But I discovered that 
Yoga and bhoga (material enjoyment) ran side by side in his life. . . . 
I said to him, ' You are a true Janaka in this age of sin. Janaka 
was wont to see both sides at once. So you have kept your soul 
for God, while your body moves in the material world. That is 
why I have come to see you. Tell me something about God !' ..." 
 
4 Rabindranath Tagore was thfti four years old. Ramakrishna 
was introduced by his patron, Mathur Babu, who had been a fellow 
student of Devendranath. A curious detail of the visit may interest 
our European psycho- physiologists. Hardly were the introductions 
over than Ramakrishna asked Devendranath to undress and show 
him his chest. Devendranath complied without showing much 
astonishment. The colour of the skin was scarlet, and Ramakrishna 
examined it. This persistent redness of the breast is a peculiar 
sign of the practice of certain Yoga. Ramakrishna never omitted 
to examine the breast of his disciples, their breathing capacity, and 
the soundness of their circulation before allowing or forbidding them 
to undertake exercises of great concentration. 
 
114 
 
 
 
RAMAKRISHNA AND THE KING-SHEPHERDS OF INDIA 
 
Then I consider the greatest, the richest, the most learned 
men as straw, if I do not see God. . . . And a laugh 
escaped me ... for I discovered that this man at the 
same time enjoyed the world and led a religious life. He 
had many children, all young. So in spite of his being a 
great Jnanin, he had to reconcile himself to the world. 
I said to him, ' You are the King Janaka of our day/ 6 
He belonged to the world and yet he attained the highest 
realizations. You are in the world, but your spirit rests 
on the heights of God. Tell me something of Him 1 " 
 
Devendranath recited to him some beautiful passages 
from the Veda, 6 and the interview proceeded on a tone of 
familiar courtesy. Devendranath was much struck by the 
fire in the eyes of his visitor, and he invited Ramakrishna 
to a feast for the next day. But he begged him to " cover 
his body a little/' if he wished to be present : for the little 
pilgrim had not put himself to the trouble of dressing up. 
Ramakrishna replied with wicked good fellowship that he 
could not be depended upon ; he was as he was, and would 
come as he was. So they parted very good friends. But 
early the next morning a very polite note came from the 
great aristocrat, begging him not to put himself to any 
trouble. And that was the end. With one caressing 
stroke of the paw aristocracy remained aloof, secure in its 
paradise of idealism. 
 
Dayananda was summed up, judged and condemned 
as of less worth still. It must be admitted that when the 
two men met at the end of 1873, the Arya Samaj had not 
yet been founded and the reformer was still in the midst 
of his career. When Ramakrishna examined him, 7 he 
 
5 Janaka, the King of Videha and Mithila, the foster-father of Sita. 
 
" This universe is to be likened to a candelabra. And each one 
of us is a bulb. If we do not burn the whole candelabra becomes 
dark. God has created man to celebrate His glory. . . ." 
 
In Sashi's account Ramakrishna made this naive reflection : 
 
" It is strange 1 While I was meditating in the Panchavati (the 
grove of Dakshineswar), I also saw an image like a candelabra . . . 
Devendranath must really be a very profound man I " 
 
7 He recognized in him also this characteristic redness of the 
breast. During one of Ramakrishna's interviews as noted by 
Mahendra Nath Gupta (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna) on November 
28, 1883, a singular statement with regard to Dayananda is attributed 
to Ramakrishna. He had heard that Dayananda, burning to 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
found in him " a little power," by which he meant, " real 
contact with the Divine." But the tortured and torturing 
character, the bellicose athleticism of the champion of the 
Vedas, his feverish insistence that he alone was in the 
right, and therefore had the right to impose his will, were 
all blots on his mission in Ramakrishna's eyes. He saw 
him day and night disputing concerning the Scriptures, 
twisting their meaning, and striving at all costs to found 
a new sect. But such preoccupation with personal and 
worldly success sullied the true love of God, and so he 
turned away from Dayananda. 
 
His relations with Keshab Chunder Sen were of quite a dif- 
ferent order. They were intimate, affectionate, and lasting. 
 
Before speaking of them I must express regret that the 
disciples of the two masters have left us such prejudiced 
accounts. Each side has been at considerable pains to 
" vassalize " the other man of God in favour of its own 
saint. Ramakrishna's disciples still speak of Keshab with 
sympathetic regard, and thank him for the homage he 
yielded to the Paramahamsa. But some of Keshab's 
disciples cannot forgive Ramakrishna for the ascendancy, 
real or apparent, he exercised over their master ; hence in 
order to deny that any such influence could have existed, 
they have reverted to the plan of raising between them 
insurmountable barriers of thought ; they scornfully mis- 
represent Ramakrishna's true worth, and their harmful 
spite is also directed against the man who preached his 
Gospel, and made it victorious, Vivekananda. 8 
 
But having read certain beautiful and fresh pages by 
 
measure himself against Keshab Chunder Sen on the subject of his 
Vedic Gods, in whom Keshab did ot believe, cried out, " The Lord 
has done so many things 1 Can He not also have made the Gods ? " 
This was not in accordance with the views publicly professed by 
Dayananda, the implacable enemy of polytheism. Was Dayananda's 
exclamation inexactly reported to Ramakrishna, or did it refer, not 
to the Gods, but to the Vedic sacrificial fire, which Dayananda 
believed in on the ground of faith in the infallible Vedas ? I cannot ' 
explain this apparent contradiction. 
 
I have in mind chiefly the pamphlet of B. Mozoomdar : Professor 
Max M&Uer on Ramakrishna ; The World on K. Chunder Sen, 1900, 
Calcutta. (Cf. Chapter II, " Absurd Inventions and Reports made 
to Max Mftller by the Disciples of Ramakrishna " ; Chapter III, 
" Differences between the Two Doctrines " ; and above all the 
 
116 
 
 
 
RAMAKRISHNA AND THE KING-SHEPHERDS OF INDIA 
 
Keshab, wherein the ideas and actions of Vivekananda 
are distinctly foreshadowed, I can well understand that the 
Brahmos chafe under the silence and oblivion into which 
the Ramakrishna has allowed them to fall. So far as lies 
in my power, I shall try to amend this injustice ; for I 
believe it to be unwitting. But certain Brahmos could not 
worse uphold Keshab's memory than by confining him 
within their own narrow limits and by putting in the shade 
the disinterested affection felt by Keshab for Ramakrishna. 
In the whole of Keshab's life, so worthy of respect and 
affection, there is nothing more deservedly dear to us than 
the attitude of respect and affection adopted from the first 
by this great man at the height of his fame and climax 
of his thought, and maintained until the end, towards the 
Little Poor Man of Dakshineswar, then either obscure or 
misrepresented. The more the Brahmos attempt, their 
pride hurt by the familiarities of the " madman of God " 
with the prince of intellectuals, to extract from the writings 
of Keshab proud denunciations of disordered ecstasy, such 
as they attribute to Ramakrishna, 9 the more striking is the 
contrast of Keshab's actual relations to Ramakrishna. 
 
insulting Chapter V, " Concerning Vivekananda, the Informant of 
Max Miiller," which does not scruple to join forces with some Anglo- 
American clergymen, lacerated by the thunderous religious polemics 
of the great Swami.) 
 
Cf. B. Mozoomdar, op. cit., Chapter II. In his treatise on Yoga 
Keshab says : " Knowledge and Bhakti are interchangeable terms. 
Bhakti is only possible in those who have knowledge, an unknowing 
Bhakta is an impossibility. ' ' But this does not condemn the religious 
ecstasies of Ramakrishna ; for first it would be necessary to prove 
that a higher form of knowledge was not contained therein. It 
merely marks the different character of Keshab's contemplations ; 
for him the highest condition consisted in a union of mind with the 
Eternal, wherein practical intelligence was not obscured in the midst 
of the manifold occupations of life, society and the home. Keshab's 
views were in accordance with the spiritual traditions of the Brahmo 
Samaj. Further, in Chapter III, Mozoomdar quotes Keshab as 
saying, " Fie a hundred times to the Yogin, if he abandons everything 
for the love of Yoga ! . . . It is a sin to abandon those whom 
God has given us to cherish." He claims to find in these words a 
reference to Ramakrishna as having neglected his duties towards 
his wife. But it is untrue to say that he neglected them. Not only 
did he love his wife with a profound and pure love, but he knew 
how to inspire her with a love, which for her was a source of peace 
 
117 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
If it is true that Keshab, unlike most of the religious 
men of India, never took a Guru, an intermediary between 
himself and the Divinity, 10 so that nobody has the right 
to say that he was a disciple of Ramakrishna, as is claimed 
by the Ramakrishnites his generous spirit was ever ready 
to appreciate greatness, and his love of truth was too pure 
for vanity to have any part in it. Hence this teacher was 
ever ready to learn, 11 and said of himself, " I am a born 
disciple ... all objects are my masters. I learn from 
everything/ 1 ia How then can he have failed to learn 
from the Man of God ? 
 
During the early months of 1875 Keshab happened to 
be with his disciples at a villa near Dakshineswar. Rama- 
krishna went to visit him 1S with the words, 
 
" I hear you have seen a vision of God, I have come to 
find out what it is." 
 
and happiness. I have already shown how seriously he took his 
responsibility to her, and that he did not allow his disciples to give 
up duties they had already contracted to old parents, to wife or 
children dependent upon them in order to follow him. 
 
10 " From the beginning of my religious life," he wrote, " I have 
been ever wont to receive instruction from Thee, my God. ..." 
 
11 1 have been happy to find the same point of view that I have 
adopted, in the beautiful book illumined by the faith of Manilal 
C. Parekh, a Christian disciple of Keshab (Brahmarshi Keshab Ch. 
Sen, 1926, Oriental Christ House, Rajkot, Bombay). Manilal C. 
Parekh clearly recognizes that Keshab owed much to Ramakrishna, 
probably more than Ramakrishna owed to him. But, like myself, 
he sees in it another reason for admiring the largeness of his spirit 
and greatness of his heart. 
 
11 But he says also : " God has implanted in me the power to 
aspire to the good qualities of every man." 
 
11 He had noticed him as early as 1865, when young Keshab 
was Devendranath's lieutenant a the head of the Adi Brahmo 
Samaj. Keshab's face had struck him. It was not the kind that 
is easily forgotten. Keshab was tall, his face oval, " his complexion 
clear like that of an Italian " (Mukerji). But if his spirit, like his 
face, was tinged by the tender sun of the West, the depths of his 
soul remained Indian. Ramakrishna, watching him as he meditated, 
was not mistaken. " On the platform of the Brahmo Samaj several 
people were meditating," he says of his visit in 1865. " * n the 
centre of the group was Keshab lost in contemplation ; he was 
as motionless as a piece of wood. He was then quite a young 
man ; but it was at ;his bait that the fish was nibbling . . ." (a 
familiar metaphor meaning that God was responding to his appeal 
alone). 
 
 
 
RAMAKRISHNA AND THE KING-SHEPHERDS OF INDIA 
 
Thereupon he began to sing a famous hymn to Kali, 
and in the midst of it he fell into an ecstasy. Even for 
Hindus this was an extraordinary sight ; but Keshab, who, 
as we have seen, was sufficiently suspicious of such rather 
morbid manifestations of devotion, would hardly have 
been struck by it, if, on coming out of Samadhi at the 
instance of his nephew, 14 Ramakrishna had not forthwith 
launched into a flood of magnificent words regarding the 
One and Infinite God. His ironic good sense appeared 
even in this inspired outpouring, and it struck Keshab 
very forcibly. He charged his disciples to observe it. 
After a short time he had no doubt that he was dealing 
with an exceptional personality, and in his turn went to 
seek it out. They became friends. He invited Rama- 
krishna to the ceremonies of his Brahmo Samaj ; and used 
to come to take him from his temple for excursions on the 
Ganges ; and since his generous soul was obliged to share 
his discoveries with others, he spoke everywhere of Rama- 
krishna, in his sermons, and in his writings for journals 
and reviews, both in English and in the native languages. 
His own fame was put at Ramakrishna's disposal and it 
was through Keshab that his reputation, until then unknown 
to the popular religious masses with a few exceptions, 
spread in a short time to the intellectual middle-class 
circles of Bengal and beyond. 
 
The modesty shown by the noble Keshab, the illustrious 
chief of the Brahmo Samaj, rich in learning and prestige, 
in bowing down before this unknown man, ignorant of 
book learning and of Sanskrit, who could hardly read and 
who wrote with difficulty, is truly admirable. But Rama- 
krishna's penetration confounded him and he sat at his 
feet as a disciple. 
 
But this is not to say that Keshab was the disciple of 
Ramakrishna, as is claimed by some over-zealous followers 
 
14 For the interest of European science, it is to be noted that 
the only method of recalling Ramakrishna from his ecstatic trances 
was to pronounce in his ear such or such a name of the Lord, or 
some Mantra (form of prayer), differing according to the degree 
and the form of the ecstasy. The character of psychic concentration 
was then very marked ; and it was impossible to speak of any 
initial physiological disorder; the spirit always remained in full 
control, 
 
119 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
of the latter. It is not true that any one of his essential 
ideas was derived from him ; for they were already formed 
when he met Ramakrishna for the first time. We have 
seen that after 1862 he began to conceive of the harmony 
of religions and their original unity. He said in 1863 : 
" All truths are common to all, for all are of God. Truth 
is no more European than Asiatic, no more yours than 
mine." In 1869 in the course of a lecture on the future 
church, he visualized all religions as a vast symphony, 
wherein each one, while keeping its distinctive character, 
the tone of its instrument, the register of its voice, united 
to praise God the Father and Man the Brother in one 
universal anthem. On the other hand, it is false to claim 
that Keshab needed Ramakrishna's help to arrive at his 
conception of the Mother a conception common to all 
ages in India, as that of the Father in the West. Rama- 
krishna did not create it. The hymns of Ramprasad, 
stored within his memory, sing Her in all keys. The idea 
of God's maternity had been incorporated in the Brahmo 
Samaj during the pontificate of Devendranath. Keshab's 
disciples have no difficulty in citing invocations to the 
Mother all through the work of their Master. 16 
 
Undoubtedly the twin ideas of the Divine Mother and 
the brotherhood of Her worshippers were beautiful ones, 
whatever the forms of their ritual and means of expression, 
and, as ideas, they were already possessed by Keshab and 
revivified by his sincere faith. But it was another thing 
to find them alive and vital in a Ramakrishna ! The 
Little Poor Man was not troubled by theories ; he simply 
was. He was the communion of the Gods with believers ; 
he was the Mother and Her lover ; he saw Her ; She was 
seen through him ; She coulfl be touched. What a dis- 
 
16 1862 ; when Keshab was still the minister of the Adi Brahmo 
Samaj of Devendranath, a hymn was sung, " Sitting on the knees 
of the Mother." 
 
1866 ; Manual of the Brahmo Samaj : " O Divine Mother, bind 
me by thy mercy. ... O Mother, come, draw near 1 " 
 
1875 : " Happy am 1 1 I have been merged in the heart of the 
Mother, I am now among her children ; the Mother dances with 
her children. . . ." 
 
(But before this last date the meeting of Keshab and Ramakrishna 
had taken place. Cf. B. Mozoomdar, op. cit., Chapter III.) 
 
I2O 
 
 
 
RAMAKRISHNA AND THE KING-SHEPHERDS OF INDIA 
 
covery this genius of heart, who communicated to those 
coming into contact ^ith him the warm breath of the 
Goddess and the shelter of Her beautiful arms, was to 
Keshab, and how deeply he must have felt its impact : 
for he too was a Bhakta, a believer through love : 16 
 
" The sweet, simple, charming and childlike nature of 
Ramakrishna coloured the Yoga of Keshab and his immacu- 
late conception of religion/' wrote Chiranjib Sarma, one of 
his biographers. 
 
And one of the missionaries of Keshab's church, Babu 
Girish Chundra Sen, 17 wrote, 
 
" It was from Ramakrishna that Keshab received the 
idea of invoking God by the sweet name of Mother with 
the simplicity of a child. . . ." 18 
 
Only the last quotation needs comment ; for we have 
shown that Keshab did not wait for Ramakrishna before 
invoking the Mother. Ramakrishna, however, brought him 
a renewal of love and immediate certitude, the heart of 
a child. Hence it was not the discovery of the " New 
Dispensation " that Keshab began to preach in the same 
year, 1875, that his path crossed Ramakrishna's, 19 but 
 
16 Promotho Loll Sen says that he communed daily with God. 
" Let prayer be your chief preoccupation 1 Pray ardently and 
 
without ceasing, alone and together, let it be the alpha and omega 
of your life 1 " 
 
17 " The Life and Teachings of the Paramahamsa Ramakrishna," 
Article in the Dharmatatawa. 
 
18 Babu Chirish Chundra Sen and Chiranjib Sarma, quoted by 
the Ramakrishnites in support of their thesis, certainly exaggerated 
the influence of Ramakrishna on Keshab's Brahmo Samaj. Those 
who try to prove too much lay themselves open to suspicion. To 
write like Chiranjib Sarma that " The worship of God as Mother 
was due to Ramakrishna/' is^a contradiction of the facts. It is 
quite enough to say that Ramakrishna's example developed it in 
the Brahmo Samaj. The Brahmo cult was rather hard " The 
shadow of Ramakrishna," to use a simile of Babu Girish Ch. Sen, 
" softened it." 
 
" Nevertheless Pratap Chandra Mozoomdar, in his sympathetic 
life of Keshab, admits that the meeting with Ramakrishna, without 
altering the essentially theistic character of the New Dispensation, 
led Keshab to present it in a more conciliatory and easily accessible 
form. 
 
Ramakrishna " had gathered the essential conceptions of Hindu 
polytheism into an original structure of eclectic spirituality. . . . 
This strange eclecticism suggested to Keshab's appreciative mind 
 
121 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
rather an irresistible outpouring of faith and joy which 
made him cry his message to the world. 
 
Ramakrishna was a wonderful stimulant for the Brahmos, 
a tongue of flame dancing at Pentecost over the heads of 
the apostles, burning and enlightening them. He was at 
once their sincere friend and their judge, who spared neither 
his affection nor his mischievous criticism. 
 
When he first visited the Brahmo Samaj his penetrating 
and amused glance had seen through the rather conven- 
tional devotion of its excellent members. According to 
his own humorous account, 20 
 
" The leader said : ' Let us communicate with Him/ 
I thought, ' They will now go into the inner world and 
stay a long time/ Hardly had a few minutes passed when 
they all opened their eyes. I was astonished. Can any- 
one find Him after so slight a meditation ? After it was 
all over, when we were alone, I spoke to Keshab about it : 
' I watched all your congregation communing with their 
eyes shut. Do you know what it reminded me of ? Some- 
times at Dakshineswar I have seen under the trees a flock 
of monkeys sitting, stiff and looking the very picture of 
innocence. . . . They were thinking and planning their 
campaign of robbing certain gardens of fruits, roots, and 
other edibles ... in a few moments. The communing 
that your followers did with God to-day is no more serious ! " 
 
In a ritual hymn of the Brahmo Samaj this verse occurs : 
 
" Think of Him and worship Him at every instant of 
the day ! " Ramakrishna stopped the singer, and said, 
 
" You should alter the verse into ' Pray to Him and 
worship Him only twice a day.' Say what you really do. 
Why tell fibs to the Infinite ? " 
 
the thought of broadening the spiritual structure ol his own move- 
ment. . . The Hindu conceptions of the Divine attributes spon- 
taneously recommended themselves as beautiful and true, and also 
as the surest means of making his faith intelligible and acceptable in 
the land. Of course he kept the simple universal basis of theism 
intact." But Mozoomdar adds with regret that such a presentation 
of theism with a multiplicity of Divine attributes has since been 
exploited in favour of popular idolatry. 
 
M Cf. Dhan Gopal Mukerji : The Face of Silence, 1926. (Sara- 
dananda gives a similar account in his chapter on the Brahmo 
Samaj and Ramakrishna.) 
 
122 
 
 
 
RAMAKRISHNA AND THE KING-SHEPHERDS OF INDIA 
 
The Brahmo Samaj of Keshab, while it extolled faith, 
did so in a purposely stilted, abstract and solemn tone, 
reminiscent of the Anglican. It seemed to be always on 
guard against any suspicion of idolatry. 21 Ramakrishna 
took a mischievous delight in accusing it, not without 
justice, of mild idolatry. One day he heard Keshab in 
prayer enumerating all the perfections of the Lord. 
 
''Why do you give these statistics?" he asked him. 
" Does a son say to his father, ' O my father, you possess 
so many houses, so many gardens, so many horses, etc. ' ? 
It is natural for a father to put his resources at the disposal 
of his son. If you think of Him and His gifts as something 
extraordinary, you can never be intimate with Him, you 
cannot draw near to Him. Do not think of Him as if He 
were far away from you. . . . Think of Him as your 
nearest : Then He will reveal Himself to you. . . . Do 
you not see that if you go into an ecstasy over His attributes, 
you become an idolater ? " 22 
 
Keshab protested against this attack on a sensitive point ; 
he declared that he hated idolatry, that the God he wor- 
shipped was a formless God. Ramakrishna answered 
quietly, 
 
" God is with form and without form. Images and other 
symbols are just as valid as your attributes. And these 
attributes are no different from idolatry, but are merely 
hard and petrified forms of it." 
 
And again, 
 
" You wish to be strict and partial. . . . For myself I 
have a burning desire to worship the Lord in as many 
ways as I can; nevertheless my heart's desire has never 
 
11 Here is a type of Brahmo prayer, quoted in the Gospel of Sri 
Ramakrishna : " Om ! Thou art our Father, Give us knowledge ! 
Do not destroy us ! " " Om ! Brahman : Truth : Knowledge : In- 
finite : He is Bliss and Immortality : He shines : He is Peace : He 
is the Good : He is the One : " "We bow before Thee, O Supreme 
Being, O First Great Cause : . . . We bow before Thee, O Light 
of Knowledge, O Support of all the worlds : " " From the unreal 
lead us to the real : From darkness lead us to light : From death 
lead us to Immortality : Reach us through and through our self : 
And ever more protect us, O Thou Terrible, by Thy Sweet com- 
passionate Face : " 
 
" Life of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 365 and Mukerji. 
 
123 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
been satisfied. I long to worship with offerings of flowers 
and fruits, to repeat His holy name in solitude, to meditate 
upon Him, to sing His hymns, to dance in the joy of the 
Lord : . . . Those who believe that God is without form 
attain Him just as well as those who believe He has form. 
The only two essentials are faith and self-surrender. . . ." as 
 
I can copy the colourless words, but I cannot communi- 
cate the real presence, the radiance of person, the tone of 
voice, the look in the eyes and the captivating smile. 
Nobody who came in contact with them could resist them. 
It was above all his living certitude that impressed the 
onlookers ; for with him words were not, as with others, 
a loose and ornamental robe, hiding as much as they claimed 
to reveal of the unfathomable depths of life ; with him the 
depths of life blossomed, and God, Who for the majority 
even of religious men, is a frame of thought drawing an 
impenetrable veil across " The Unknown Masterpiece/ 1 24 
was to be seen in him ; for as he spoke he lost himself in 
God, like a bather who dives and reappears dripping after 
a moment, bringing with him the smell of seaweed, the 
taste of the salt of the ocean. Who can rid himself of 
its tang ? The scientific spirit of the West can indeed 
analyse it. But whatever its elements, its synthetic reality 
was never in doubt. The greatest sceptic can touch the 
diver as he returns from the depths of the Dream, and 
catch some reflection of submarine flora in his eyes. Keshab 
and several of his disciples were intoxicated with it. 
 
The strange dialogues of this Indian Plato, delivered on 
Keshab's yacht as it went up and down the Ganges, 26 
deserve to be read. Their narrator, afterwards Rama- 
krishna's evangelist, was the first to be astonished that 
such a meeting could have c?>me about tfetween such 
opposite types of mind. What common fcround could 
there be between the man of God and the man of the 
world, the great intellectual, the Anglomaniac Keshab, 
 
Mukerji. 
 
M Allusion to a celebrated novel of Balzac. 
 
" Two of them are to be found in an account by M. (Mahendra 
Nath Gupta), the author of the Gospel of Ramakrishna, dated 
Octobe* 27, 1882. Another witness, Nagendranath Gupta, gives 
an account of another interview in 1881. (Cf. The Modern Review, 
Calcutta, May, 1927.) 
 
124 
 
 
 
RAMAKRISHNA AND THE KING-SHEPHERDS OF INDIA 
 
whose reason condemned the Gods? Keshab's disciples 
pressed round the two sages at the porthole of the cabin, 
like a swarm of flies. And as the honey of his words began 
to flow from Ramakrishna's lips, the flies were drowned in 
its sweetness. 
 
"It is now more than forty-five years ago that this 
happened and yet almost everything that the Paramahamsa 
said is indelibly impressed on my memory. I have never 
heard any other man speak as he did. ... As he spoke 
he would draw a little closer to Keshab until part of his 
body was unconsciously resting on Keshab's lap, but 
Keshab sat perfectly still and made no movement to with- 
draw himself." 
 
Ramakrishna looked with affectionate intensity on the 
faces surrounding him, and described their moral character 
one by one, as delineated in their features, first the eyes, 
then the forehead, the nose, the teeth, and the ears ; for 
they formed a language to which he had the key. As he 
spoke with his sweet and attractive stammer he came to 
the subject of the Nirakara Brahman, the formless God. 
 
" He repeated the word Nirakara two or three times and 
then quietly passed into Samadhi as the diver slips into 
fathomless deep. . . . We watched him intently. The 
whole body relaxed and then became slightly rigid. There 
was no twitching of the muscles or nerves, no movement 
of any limb. Both his hands lay in his lap with the fingers 
lightly interlocked. The sitting posture of the body was 
easy but absolutely motionless. The face was slightly tilted 
up and in repose. The eyes were nearly but not wholly 
closed. The eyeballs were not turned up or otherwise 
deflected, but they were fi^ed. . . . The lips were parted 
in a beatific and indescribable smile, disclosing the gleam 
of the white teeth. There was something in that wonderful 
smile which no photograph was ever able to reproduce/ 1 M 
 
He was recalled to the world by the singing of a hymn. 
 
" He opened his eyes and looked around him as if 
 
16 Nagendranath Gupta. 
 
In another ecstasy, the one described by M, 
to the Mother : " O Mother, they are all fastened 
They are not free : is it possible to loose them " 
 
125 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
in a strange place. The music stopped. The Paramahamsa 
looking at us said, ' Who are these people ? ' And then he 
vigorously slapped the top of his head several times, and 
cried out, ' Go down, go down : ' . . . The Paramahamsa 
became fully conscious and sang in a pleasant voice (a hymn 
of Kali). 1 ' 
 
He sang the identity of the Divine Mother with the 
Absolute. He sang the joy of the flying kite of the soul, 
launched by the Mother while She keeps it attached to Her 
by the string of Illusion. 27 
 
" The world is the Mother's plaything. It is Her pleasure 
to let slip from Illusion one or two flying kites among the 
thousands. It is Her sport. She says to the human soul 
in confidence with a wink of the eye : ' Go and live in the 
world until I tell you to do something else . . . .' " 
 
And in imitation of Her he turned to the disciples of 
Keshab with an indulgent irony that made them laugh. 
 
" You are in the world. Stay there : It is not for you 
to abandon it. You are very well as you are, pure gold 
and alloy, sugar and treacle. . . . We sometimes play a 
game in which one must gain seventeen points to win. I 
have passed the limit and I have lost. But you clever 
people, who have not won enough points, can still continue 
to play. ... In truth it matters little if you live in the 
family or in the world, so long as you do not lose contact 
with God/ 1 
 
And it was in the course of these monologues, wherein 
observation and ecstasy, mocking common sense and highest 
speculation were so wonderfully blended, that the Parama- 
hamsa produced his beautiful parables, quoted above, of 
the Divine Tank with several ghats (steps) and of Kali, 
the Spider. He had too keen sense of reality, he saw too 
clearly to the very bottom of his listeners, to imagine that 
he could raise them to the heights of his own liberated soul. 
He measured their wisdom and their capacity, and he asked 
 
17 The metaphor of the flying kite is to be found, as we have 
Seen, in a hymn of Ramprasad, which Ramakrishna loved to sing : 
" The Divine Mother and the Liberated Soul/ 1 It is also used in 
a hymn of Nareschandra quoted in the Gospel. Nearly all the 
metaphors, particularly that of the diver to the depths of the Ocean 
of Life, are 'used again and again with variations in the poetic and 
musical folklore of Bengal from the fifteenth century onwards. 
 
126 
 
 
 
RAMAKRISHNA AND THE KING-SHEPHERDS OF INDIA 
 
nothing of them beyond their capability, but he asked for 
the whole of that : above all he communicated to Keshab 
and his disciples the spirit of life, the creative breath, 
coupled with a wide and intellectual tolerance, which 
recognized the truth in quite diverse points of view, pre- 
viously considered by them to be irreconcilable. He freed 
their intellectual limbs, petrified within the groove of reason, 
and made them supple. He tore them from their abstract 
discussions. " Live, love and create : " and blood again 
flowed through their veins. 
 
" To create is to be like God/' he said to Keshab, who 
was then spending himself in endless and fruitless polemics. 
" When you yourself are filled with the essence of existence, 
all that you say will come true. Poets in all ages have 
praised truth and virtue. But does that make their readers 
virtuous or truthful ? When a man despoiled of self comes 
among us, his acts are the very pulses of the heart of virtue ; 
all that he does to others makes even their most humdrum 
dreams greater, so that all they touch becomes true and 
pure ; they become the father of reality. 28 And what he 
creates never dies. That is what I expect of you. Make 
the dogs of invective keep quiet. Let the elephant of 
Being sound the clarion trumpet of his benediction over all 
living things : You possess this power. Are you going to 
use it, or are you going to waste this brief span called life in 
fighting other peoples ? " 29 
 
Keshab listened to his advice and took deep root in this 
warm living earth, bathed in the sap emanating from the 
Universal Being. Ramakrishna made him fed that no 
 
" Cf . Gandhi, who was averse to all religious propaganda by 
word or writing. When he waS asked, " How then can we share 
our experience with others ? " he replied, " Our spiritual experiences 
are necessarily shared and communicated whether we suspect it 
or not, but by our lives and our examples, not by our words, which 
are a very inadequate vehicle. Spiritual experiences are deeper 
than thought itself. By the very fact that we live, spiritual experi- 
ence will overflow. But if you deliberately set yourself to share 
your spiritual experience with another, you raise an intellectual 
barrier between you/' (Discussions at the Council of the Federation 
of International Fellowship, Satyagraha Ashram, Sabannati, 
January 15, 1928.) 
 
11 Mukerji. 
 
127 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
particle of this sap was ever lost, even in the most humble 
plant of human thought. His mind was sympathetically 
reopened to all other forms of faith, even to certain outward 
practices, which he had avoided. 
 
He was to be seen invoking by their names Shiva, Shakti, 
Sarasvaty, Lakshmi, Hari, identifying God's attributes with 
them. For two years he was absorbed in each of the great 
religious types, the heroic incarnations of the Spirit : Jesus, 
Buddha, Shaitanya, each representing one side of the Great 
Mirror. He sought to assimilate them each in turn, so that 
through their synthesis he might realize the universal ideal. 
During his last illness he was especially drawn to that form 
of Bhakti most familiar to Ramakrishna a passionate love 
of the Mother. Keshab's disciples told Ramakrishna, when 
he came to see him during his last days on earth, that " a 
great change had taken place/' " Often we find him talk- 
ing to the Divine Mother, waiting for Her and weeping." 
And Ramakrishna, enraptured by this news, fell into an 
ecstasy. There is nothing more touching in the whole 
account of this supreme interview 80 than the appearance 
of the dying Keshab, shaken by a mortal cough, holding 
on to the walls, supporting himself by the furniture, coming 
to cast himself at the feet of Ramakrishna. The latter was 
still half plunged in ecstasy, and was talking to himself. 
Keshab was silent, drinking in the mysterious words that 
seemed to come from the Mother Herself. They explained 
to him with ruthless but consoling tranquillity, the deep 
meaning of his sufferings and his approaching death. 81 
 
10 (Gospel of Ramakrishna, I, Section V, Chapters I and II.) 
 
It was on November 28, 1883, at the close of the day that Rama- 
krishna entered the house of Keslyib with several of his disciples. 
 
11 Ramakrishna, hardly awakened from ecstasy, looked round at 
the drawing-room full of beautiful furniture and mirrors. Then he 
smiled and spoke to himself : " Yes, all these things have had their 
uses some time ago ; but now they serve no purpose. . . . You 
are here, Mother. How beautiful you are : . . ." At this moment 
Keshab entered and fell at Ramakrishna's feet. " Here I am," he 
said. Ramakrishna looked at him without seeming to recognize 
him clearly, and continued his monologue about the Mother and 
human life. Between the two men not a word was spoken about 
Keshab's health, although it was the object of the visit. It was 
not until after some time that Ramakrishna uttered the words I 
quote here. 
 
128 
 
 
 
RAMAKRISHNA AND THE KING-SHEPHERDS OF INDIA 
 
With what deep insight Ramakrishna understood the hidden 
confusion of this life of faith and restless love : 
 
" You are ill," he said sweetly. " There is a profound 
meaning in that. Through your body have passed many 
deep waves of devotion seeking for the Lord. Your illness 
bears witness to these emotions. It is impossible to tell 
what damage they do to the organisms at the time they 
are produced. A boat passes along the Ganges without 
attracting attention. But some time afterwards a great 
wave, displaced by its passage, dashes against the bank 
and washes away part of it. When the fire of the Divine 
Vision enters the frail house of the body, it first burns the 
passions, then the false ego, and at last it consumes every- 
thing. . . . You have not yet reached the end. . . . Why 
did you allow your name to be inscribed on the registers 
of the Lord's hospital ? You will never be allowed to come 
out until the word ' Healed ' is written across them." 
 
He then invoked the gracious parable of the Divine 
gardener digging round the roots of a precious rose tree, 
so that it might drink the night dew. 32 
 
" Illness digs round the roots of your being." 
 
Keshab listened in silence and smiled ; for it was Rama- 
krishna's smile that shed a light of mysterious serenity into 
the funeral darkness of the house and into the sufferings 
of the sick man. Ramakrishna did not adopt a solemn tone 
until Keshab, exhausted, was about to leave him. Then 
he suggested to the dying man that he ought not to live 
so much in the inner room with the women and children, 
but alone with God. 
 
And it is said that in his deep agony, Keshab's last words 
were, " Mother : . . . Mother : . . ." 88 
 
11 " The Gardener knows how to treat the common rose, and how 
to treat the rose of Bassora. He loosens the earth round her roots, 
so that she may benefit from the night dew. The dew gives strength 
and freshness to the rose. It is even so with you. The Divine 
Gardener knows how to treat you. He digs round you right down 
to the roots, so that His dew may fall upon you, that you may 
become purer and your work greater and more enduring." (Gospel 
of Ramakrishna, Vol. I, Section V, Chapter II.) 
 
11 The repercussion of some of Ramakrishna's words, spoken 
during his last interview with Keshab, on the latter's last thoughts, 
have, I think, never before been noticed. 
 
Ramakrishna spoke to him for a long time about the Mother 
 
129 K 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
It is so easy to understand how this great idealist, who 
believed in God, Reason, Goodness, Justice and Truth, 
should have discovered during these tragic days that he 
was too far away from the High God, the Unattainable 
God, and that he needed to draw near to Him and to touch 
Him with the dust of Ramakrishna's feet, to see Him and 
hear Him through Ramakrishna, and find refreshment for 
his fever. Such is an expression of universal experience. 
But it is just this for which some of Keshab's proud disciples 
cannot forgive Ramakrishna. On the other hand, I must 
beg the Ramakrishnites not to make too much of it, but 
rather let them follow the example of their sweet Master. 
When Keshab had just left him after this last interview 
here described, Ramakrishna spoke modestly and with 
admiration of Keshab's greatness, which had won the 
respect both of a social and intellectual Mite and of simple 
believers like himself. And he continued to show his esteem 
for the Brahmo Samaj. 84 The best of the Brahmos have 
 
and said, " She watches over Her children. . . . She knows how 
to obtain true freedom and knowledge for them. . . . The child 
knows nothing. . . Its Mother knows everything. . . . All is 
ordered according to Her will. You fulfil Your own will, O Divine 
Mother, and accomplish Your own work. The foolish man says, 
' It is I, who have accomplished.' " 
 
Moreover, when Keshab in the midst of his own sufferings was 
consoling his real, his mortal mother, who had given him life, he 
said, " The Supreme Mother sends everything for my good. She 
plays with me, turning sometimes to one side, sometimes to the other." 
 
4 In 1878 after the fresh schisms within the Brahmo Samaj, 
Ramakrishna remained faithful to Keshab when he was deserted 
by a section of his disciples. But he refused to make any distinction 
between the three separate branches of the Brahmo Samaj, joining 
them all alike in prayer. The Gospel of Ramakrishna has recorded 
several of these visits, in particular one of October 28, 1882, when 
he was invited and was present at the annual festival of Keshab's 
Brahmo Samaj. He was eagerly surrounded and questioned on 
religious problems, and replied with his usual breadth of spirit. 
He took part in the Songs (the song of Kabir), and in the sacred 
dances. When he retired he saluted all forms of devotion, ending 
up with homage to the Brahmo Samaj : " Salutations to the feet 
of the Jnanin : Salutations to the feet of the Bhakta : Salutations 
to the devout who believe in God with form : Salutations to the 
devout who believe in a God without form : Salutations to the 
ancient knowers of Brahmin : Salutations to the modern knowers 
of the Brahmo Samaj." 
 
The other two branches of the Brahmo Samaj showed him far 
 
130 
 
 
 
RAMAKRISHNA AND THE KING-SHEPHERDS OF INDIA 
 
held him in veneration in their turn, 85 and have known 
how to profit from their intercourse with him. His influence 
widened their understanding and their heart and did more 
than anybody else's to bring them into line in people's 
estimation with the best thought of India, which the first 
influx of the scientific knowledge of the West, badly assimi- 
lated, had threatened to alienate. 
 
One example will suffice ; his great disciple, Vivekan- 
anda, came from the ranks of the Brahmo Samaj and from 
the most bigoted, at least for a time, of iconoclasts in the 
name of Western reason against Hindu tradition, which 
later he learnt to respect and defend. The true thought 
of the West has lost nothing through this Hindu awakening. 
The thought of the East is now independent, and hence- 
forth union can be effected between equal and free person- 
alities, instead of the one being subjugated by the other, 
and one of the two Civilizations being assassinated by the 
other. 
 
less regard. The most recent, the Sadharan Samaj, owed him a 
grudge on account of his influence over Keshab. At the Adi Brahmo 
Samaj of Devendranath he was doubtless regarded as belonging to 
a lower level. At one visit which he paid to it (May 2, 1883), and 
which Rabindranath Tagore may perhaps remember, since he was 
present as a lad, his reception was hardly courteous. (Cf. Gospel 
of Ramakrishna.) 
 
86 Especially Keshab's successor, Pratap Chandra Mozoomdar, 
and Vijaya Krishna Gosvani, who later on separated himself from 
the Brahmo Samaj. The greater composer and singer of Keshab's 
Samaj, Trailokya Nath Sanyal, maintains that many of his most 
beautiful songs were inspired by the ecstasies of Ramakrishna. 
 
 
 
VIII 
 
THE CALL OF THE DISCIPLES 
 
IT is easy to see what India gained from the meeting of 
Ramakrishna and the Brahmo Samaj. 1 His own gain 
is less obvious, but no less definite. For the first time he 
found himself brought into personal contact with the 
educated middle class of his country, and through them 
with the pioneers of progress and Western ideas. He had 
previously known practically nothing of their mentality. 
 
He was not a man to react like a strict and narrow devotee 
who hastens to put up the shutters of his cell. On the 
contrary he flung them wide open. He was too human, 
too insatiably curious, too greedy for the fruit of the tree 
of life not to taste these new fruits to the full. His long 
searching glance insinuated itself, like a creeper through the 
chinks of the house, and studied all the different habitations 
of the same Host, and all the different spirits dwelling 
therein, and in order to understand them better, he identified 
himself with them. He grasped their limitations (as well 
as their significance), and proportioned to each nature its 
own vision of life and individual duty. He never dreamed 
of imposing either vision or action alien to his proper nature 
on any man. He, to whom renunciation both then and 
always, so far as he was personally concerned, was the first 
and last word of truth, discovered that most men would 
have none of it and he was neither astonished nor saddened 
by the discovery. The differences men busied themselves 
in raising between them, like hedges, seemed to him nothing 
but bushes all flowering in the same field and giving variety 
to the scene. 1 He loved them all. He could see the goal 
 
1 See previous chapter. 
 
f Somebody once asked him what difference there was between 
 
132 
 
 
 
THE CALL OF THE DISCIPLES 
 
and the path assigned to each one of them, and pointed out 
to each the road he was to follow. When he spoke to an 
individual one of the things most astonishing to the on- 
lookers was the way he instantaneously adapted just that 
individual's particular turn of phrase and method of express- 
ing his thoughts. This was not mere versatility. His spirit 
kept firm control of the steering wheel, and if he led men 
to another point of the bank, it was always the bank of 
God. He helped them unawares to land by their own 
power. Because he believed that all nature was of God, 
he felt that it was his duty to guide each nature along its 
own lines so that it might attain its fullest development. 
The realization that he possessed this gift of spiritual guid- 
ance came upon him without his own volition. A Western 
proverb, adopted as its motto by the Italian Renaissance, 
claims that Vouloir c'est pouvoir. This is the bragging of 
youth with everything still to do. A more mature man, 
who is not so easily satisfied with words, but who lays 
emphasis on deeds, reverses the motto so that it reads : 
" Pouvoir c'esi vouloir." 
 
Ramakrishna suddenly perceived the power within him 
and the call of the world for its use. The ascendancy he 
exercised over some of the best minds in India revealed the 
weaknesses and needs of these intellectuals, their unsatisfied 
aspirations, the inadequacy of the answers they gained 
from science, and the necessity for his intervention. The 
Brahmo Samaj showed him what strength of organization, 
what beauty existed in a spiritual group uniting young 
souls round an elder brother so that they tendered a 
basket of love as a joint offering to their Beloved, the 
Mother. 9 
 
The immediate result was that his mission, hitherto 
undefined, became crystallized ; it concentrated first in a 
glowing nucleus of conscious thought wherein decision was 
centred, and then passed into action. 
 
First of all he saw in their entirety his own relations with 
 
the Brahmos and the other Hindus. " No very great one/ 1 he re- 
plied. In a concert of hautboys one holds on the same note while 
the others weave variations beneath it. The Brahmos always come 
back to the same note, the formless aspect of God. But the Hindus 
play his different aspects. 
 
133 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
God. He saw that this God within him 8 could not be 
satisfied with personal salvation, as was the case with other 
Sadhakas, 4 but required of him the love and service of 
mankind. 5 His spiritual struggles, his ecstasies, his realiza- 
tions were not to be only for his own profit. 
 
" Sic vos non vobts. . . ." fl 
 
They were meant rather to prepare the way for human 
development, for a new era of spiritual realization. Other 
men had the right to aspire to and hope for liberation, but 
not he. He could not count on that. From century to 
century he was obliged to go to the help of mankind when- 
ever they were in danger. 7 
 
And here is the rallying cry, the word of salvation that 
he was to carry to the men of his day. 8 
 
i. All religions are true in their essence and in the sincere 
faith of their believers. The revelation of this universal 
truth, whereat Ramakrishna had arrived by common sense 
 
Ramakrishna admitted at this point what the Bhairavi Brah- 
mani had been the first to proclaim that he was a Divine Incar- 
nation. But he disliked to talk about it, and could not bear it to 
be mentioned in front of him. In general, praise was disagreeable 
to him. He was much more prone to refuse in public all spiritual 
privileges to the dissatisfaction of some of his followers, who would 
have liked a share in them. His conviction lay in an inward act, 
a secret light, which he never paraded. I would ask my Western 
readers a question that may shock them whether the passionate 
conviction of a mission which imposes thought and action upon our 
great men is not vaguely akin to exactly some such intuition, some 
fullness of Being transcending the limits of personality ? What 
does it matter by what name it is called ? 
 
4 Sadhana is the practice of spiritual contemplation leading to 
one form of Realization. Sadhaka is one dedicated to this practice. 
 
The word " service " inscribed by Ramakriihna's disciples 
above their mission was not explicitly pronounced by the Master. 
But his whole doctrine of love working for others to the limits 
of personal sacrifice is in essence the doctrine of service. Service, 
as Swami Ashokananda has well shown, is its motive force (cf. 
Prabuddha Bharata, Almora, February, 1928, " The Origin of Swami 
Vivekananda's Doctrine of Service "). We shall return to this 
question later. 
 
A frequently quoted verse of Virgil, meaning : " You work, 
but not for yourself." 
 
T As a curious fact I note here that Ramakrishna said, pointing 
to the north-west, that after two hundred years he would be re- 
incarnated there (Russia). 
 
Life of Ramakrishna, pp. 342-47. 
 
134 
 
 
 
THE CALL OF THE DISCIPLES 
 
as much as by intuition, was the special object of his coming 
upon the earth. 
 
2. The three great orders of metaphysical thought : 
Dualism, "Qualified" Monism and absolute Monism, are 
the stages on the way to supreme truth. They are not 
contradictory, but rather are complimentary the one to the 
other. Each is the perspective offered to the mental stand- 
point of one order of individuals. For the masses, who are 
attracted through the senses, a dualistic form of religion 
with ceremonies, music, images and symbols is useful. The 
pure intellect can arrive at qualified Monism ; it knows that 
there is a beyond ; but it cannot realize it. Realization 
belongs to another order, the Advaita, the inexplicable, the 
formless Absolute, of which the discipline of Yoga gives a 
foretaste. It surpasses the logical means of word and spirit. 
It is the last word of " Realization/ 1 It is Identity with 
the One Reality. 
 
3. To this scale of thought there is naturally a correspond- 
ing scale of duties. The ordinary man lives in the world 
and can and does fulfil his duties there, striving with affec- 
tionate zeal but without attachment to self, just as a good 
servant takes care of a house, although he is quite aware 
that the house is not his. By purity and love he is to 
achieve liberation from his desires. But only step by step 
with patience and modesty. 
 
" Undertake only those tasks that are within the range 
of your thoughts and purified dreams. Do not flatter 
yourself that you can do big things, but fulfil duties as 
small in size as your self-renunciation to God. Then as 
your renunciation and purity grow (and things of the soul 
grow very quickly) they will pay their way across the 
material world and shed thSir light upon other men, just 
as the Ganges, having cut its channel through the hard 
rocks of the Himalayas, waters millions of places with its 
beneficence." 9 
 
" Do not be in a hurry, but progress each at his own 
 
pace : You are sure to arrive at your destination, so there 
 
is no need to run : but you must not stop : ' Religion is a 
 
path which leads to God, but a path is not a house.' . . . 
 
' And will it be a long one ? ' ' That depends. It is the 
 
Cf. D. G. Mukerji, op. cit. 
 
135 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
same for all. But some march for a longer time and the 
end draws near. . . .' " 
 
" The potter dries his pots in the sun. Some are already 
baked, others not. The cattle pass on and tread them under 
foot. (Then comes death.) . . . The potter picks up the 
pots again and if one is not quite baked he replaces it on 
the wheel ; he does not let it go. But when the sun of God 
has completed your baking, the potter leaves the remains, 
now of no further use on the plane of Maya, except for one 
or two finished vessels to serve as models for humanity." 10 
 
Ramakrishna was one such, and his mission was to seek 
those who were a stage behind him X1 and with them, in 
fulfilment of the Mother's will, to found a new order of 
men, who would transmit his message and teach to the 
world his word of truth containing all the others. This 
word was "Universal" the Union and Unity of all the 
aspects of God, of all the transports of love and knowledge, 
of all forms of humanity. Until then nobody had sought 
to realize more than one aspect of the Being. All must be 
realized. That was the duty of the present day. And the 
man who fulfilled it by identifying himself with each and 
all of his living brethren, taking unto himself their eyes, 
their senses, their brain and heart, was the pilot and the 
guide for the needs of the new age. 12 
 
No sooner had he perceived this vision than he was afire 
with the desire to realize it. 18 Like a bird-charmer he flung 
 
10 Interview with Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, December 6, 1884. 
 
11 He said : " To those who are in their last birth." 
11 Cf. Swami Ashokananda, loc. cit. 
 
11 It was revealed to Sri Ramakrishna about 1863 that many 
faithful and pure-hearted souls would come to him. (Cf. Life of 
Ramakrishna, p. 203.) But Rarn^krishna had hardily given it a 
thought before 1866. According to Saradananda, it was at the 
end of the long Samadhi of that year that a violent desire for his 
future disciples came upon him. Every evening he prayed for their 
advent with loud cries. The climax of this crisis was towards the 
end of the next six years (1866-72), which further period was neces- 
sary for Ramakrishna to reach the height of his powers as a teacher, 
and to understand the spiritual condition of the India of his age. 
Towards the close of this period, in a vision his future disciples 
appeared to him. (Cf. Life of Vivekananda, I, 360.) He first began 
to preach at the end of 1874 or the beginning of 1875, when he 
made Keshab's acquaintance. His preaching may be considered to 
fall within the period of twelve years, from 1874 to August, 1886. 
 
136 
 
 
 
THE CALL OF THE DISCIPLES 
 
a passionate appeal into the air to other winged spirits 
to come and group themselves round his dovecote. The 
time was ripe. He could wait no longer. He must collect 
his covey round him. Night and day the thought of 
these beloved companions possessed him. He cried in his 
heart. . . . 
 
" My ardent desire knew no bounds. That very day for 
good or ill I had to realize it. I no longer listened to what 
was said round me. ... They filled my mind. I could 
see them. I decided in advance what I should say to this 
one and that one. ... By the end of the day the thought 
of them weighed upon me. . . . Another day had gone 
and still they had not come ! . . . The clocks struck, the 
conches sounded. I went up to the roof in the fading 
light and with bleeding heart cried aloud, ' Come my chil- 
dren : Where are you ? I cannot live without you. . . .' 
I loved them more than mother, friend or lover ; I desired 
them ; I was dying in their absence." 
 
This mighty cry of the soul soared up into the night like 
the sacred serpent ; and its attraction was exerted over 
the winged spirits. From all directions, without under- 
standing what command or what power constrained them, 
they felt themselves drawn, as if caught by an invisible 
thread ; they circled, they approached and soon, one after 
another they arrived. 
 
The first disciples to present themselves (this was in 1879) 
were two middle class intellectuals from Calcutta. They 
were cousins : the one a medical student at the Calcutta 
Medical College, an absolute materialist and atheist : Ram- 
chandra Dutt ; the other married and the head of a family : 
Manomohan Mitra. Some lines in a Brahmo Samaj journal 
mentioning Ramakrishna Iiad attracted their attention. 
They came and they were conquered. They did not 
renounce the world and Ramakrishna did nothing to detach 
them from it ; but the extraordinary man captivated them 
by his charm and his character. It was they who brought 
him his two greatest disciples the one who became the 
first abbot of the Ramakrishna Order, under the name of 
Brahmananda (Rakhal Chandra Ghosh), and he whose 
genius was to enlighten India and the whole world under 
the name of Vivekananda (Narendranath Dutt). 
 
137 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
Before considering the chief personalities, here is a short 
list of the best known of the men, who between the years 
1879 and 1885 14 grouped themselves round Ramakrishna, 
together with some indication of their birth and profession 
as far as it is possible to draw up : 
 
1879 : i and 2. Doctor Ramchandra Dutt and his cousin, 
Manomohan Mitra ; 
 
3. Latu, Ramchandra's servant, of low birth from 
Behar, later known by the monastic name of 
Adbhutananda ; 
 
4. Surendranath Mitra, a rich employee of an English 
trading house, a householder and member of the 
Brahmo Samaj ; 
 
1881 : 5. Rakhal Chandra Ghosh, son of a Zemindar 
 
(landed proprietor), later the first abbot of the 
Order under the name of Brahmananda ; 
 
6. Gopal the elder, a paper merchant (later 
Advaitananda) ; 
 
7. Narendranath Dutt, a young intellectual, belong- 
ing to a Kshatriya family (later Vivekananda) ; 
 
1882 : 8. Mahendra Nath Gupta, the principal of the 
 
Vidyasagyr High School at Shambazar, Calcutta, 
who has since written the Gospel of Sri Rama- 
krishna under the pseudonym M., and who, unless 
I am mistaken, directs the school he founded, 
the Morton Institution. 
 
9. Tarak Nath Ghoshal, the son of a lawyer, a 
member of the Brahmo Samaj, the present abbot 
of the Order under the name of Shivananda ; 
10. Jogendra Nath Chaudhury, a Brahmin of Dak- 
shmeswar belonging to an aristocratic family 
(later Yogananda). 
 
1883 : ii. Sasibhurshan (later Ramakrishnananda) ; 
 
12. Saratchandra Chakravarti (later Saradananda), 
the Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission for 
more than a quarter of a century and the great 
biographer of Ramakrishna, both Brahmins of 
Calcutta and members of the Brahmo Samaj ; 
14 According to Saradananda, all Ramakrishna's disciples arrived 
before the end of 1884, and most of them between the middle of 
1883 and the middle of 1884. 
 
138 
 
 
 
THE CALL OF THE DISCIPLES 
 
13. Kaliprasad Chandra, the son of a professor of 
English (later Abhedananda) ; 
 
14. Narinath Chattopadhyaya, a Brahmin (later 
Turiyananda) ; 
 
15. Hariprasanna Chatterjee, a student (Vijnanan- 
anda) ; 
 
16. Gangadhar Ghatak, a young student of fourteen 
(later Akhandananda) ; 
 
17. Girish Chandra Ghosh, a great actor and drama- 
tist, the founder of the modern Bengal theatre, 
director of the Star Theatre at Calcutta ; 
 
1885 : 18. Subodh Ghosh, a student of seventeen, the son 
of a founder of the temple of Kali at Calcutta 
(later Subodhananda). 
 
I have not been able to find the exact dates 
for the entrance of the following : 
 
19. The rich proprietor, Balaram Bose, a mature and 
exceedingly pious man, whose gifts helped in the 
foundation of the Order ; 
 
20. The young spiritualistic medium, Nitya Niranjan 
Sen, whom Ramakrishna rescued by main force 
from occult beliefs, 16 and who was later Niran- 
janananda ; 
 
21. Devendra Mazundar, a mature, married man, an 
employee of a Zemindar and brother of the Bengal 
poet, Surendranath ; 
 
22. Baburam Gosh, a student about twenty years 
of age (later Premananda) ; 
 
23. Tulasi Charan Dutt, a student of eighteen (later 
Nirmalananda) . 
 
 
 
It can be seen that with the exception of the poor servant, 
Latu, the majority belonged to the liberal professions, to 
the Brahmin aristocracy or to the rich middle class of 
Bengal. They were either young men or in the prime of 
life, and several had been fashioned by the Brahmo Samaj. 
But I have only mentioned those who joined Ramakrishna 
strictly and who were the exponents of his thought. 
 
15 " If you always think of ghosts, you will become a ghost. If 
you think of God, you will be God. t Choose : " 
 
139 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
An ever shifting crowd of all classes and all castes inun- 
dated him with its restless movement. They came jumbled 
together, Maharajahs and beggars, journalists and pandits, 
artists and devotees, Brahmos, Christians and Moham- 
medans, men of faith, men of action and business, old men, 
women and children. Often they journeyed from afar to 
question him, and there was no rest for him day or night. 
For twenty hours out of the twenty-four he replied to all 
comers. Although his weakened health failed under the 
strain, he refused nobody, but gave out to all alike his 
sympathy, his enlightenment, and that strange power of 
soul, which, even if he did not speak a word, gripped 18 
the hearts of his visitors and left them transformed for days. 
He won the respect of all sincere believers, and gladly 
received men of different faiths so that they might discuss 
their diversities before him and he might reconcile them. 
 
But this to him was only one of the factors making for 
harmony. He desired something infinitely greater than the 
reconciliation of warring creeds that man as a whole should 
understand, sympathize with and love the rest of mankind 
that he should identify himself with the life of humanity. 
For, since Divinity is inherent in every man, every life for 
him was a religion, and should so become for all. And the 
more we love mankind, however diverse, the nearer we are 
to God. 17 It was unnecessary to seek Him in temples, or 
to call upon Him for miracles and revelations. He was 
here, everywhere, every second. We could see Him, we 
could touch Him, for He was our brother, our friend, our 
enemy, our very self. And it was because this omnipresent 
God flowed from the soul of Ramakrishna, because his light 
illumined, quietly and imperceptibly, the crowd surround- 
ing him, that men felt themselves, without understanding 
why, uplifted and strengthened. 
 
He said to his disciples, 
 
" We must build on different foundations from the makers 
 
lf " The force of a tiger," was the term used by certain wit- 
nesses of the gentle master, thus associating in a striking metaphor 
a savage impression of vital power and freedom of soul. 
 
17 " Are you seeking God ? Then seek Him in man : The Divinity 
ii manifest in man more than in any other object " (Gospel of Sri 
Ramakrishna, p. 350). 
 
140 
 
 
 
THE CALL OF THE DISCIPLES 
 
of religions. We must live an inner life so intense that it 
becomes a Being. The Being will give birth to innumerable 
torches of truth. . . . Rivers flow because their parent, 
the mountain, remains immovable. . . . Let us raise a 
mountain of God in the midst of humanity. It matters 
little where and when. When it has been raised, it will 
continue to pour forth rivers of light and compassion over 
mankind for ever." 18 
 
There was then no question of founding or of expounding 
a new creed : 
 
" Mother/' Premananda heard him pray, " do not let me 
become famous by leading those who believe in beliefs to 
me : Do not expound beliefs through my voice/' 19 
 
And he warned his disciples against any kind of Rama- 
krishnaism. 
 
Above all things there must be no barriers. 
 
" A river has no need of barriers. If it dams itself up 
it stagnates and becomes foul/' 
 
Rather the gates must be flung wide open, the gates of 
oneself and of other people so that all-conquering Unity 
might be created. This was to be the real part for his 
chosen disciples by their common effort they were to 
" recreate the Being who was to nourish the men and 
women of the centuries to be." 
 
Their part was to be an active one, demanding great gifts 
and the wide tolerance of spirit and heart. Nobody must 
stint himself, but give himself wholly. 
 
That is why, although all men, without exception, were 
called into the Divine community, he showed himself very 
strict in the choice of his disciples ; for they were the way, 
whereon the feet of humanity was to march. He claimed 
that it was not he, but the Mother, who chose them. 20 But 
 
18 D. G. Mukerji, op. cit. 
 
19 Once when he was urged to define God, he replied, " And if 
I were to give you a definition of God, what would you do with 
it ? Use it as an article of faith in order to found a new religion 
in my name ? I did not come into the world to begin a new cult : 
Ah 1 No 1 " 
 
And on another occasion, " Do not look for religion : be religion." 
 
10 " I did not choose them. The Divine Mother led them to me. 
 
She made me examine them. At night I meditate ; the veil falls 
 
and reveals them to me. You can then see the ego of a man or a 
 
141 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
was the Mother any different from the entity we carry in 
the depths of ourselves ? This entity in the case of those, 
who, like Ramakrishna, have acquired the exceptional power 
of keeping intact an intense solitary concentration in the 
midst of a life passed in the midst of an innumerable throng, 
possesses antennae, which infallibly seek out the inner man. 
At the most furtive contact they sound the depths, the 
capacities and the weaknesses, the virtues and the vices, 
things obscure even to the person under observation, that 
which is and that which will be. Ordinary men are apt to 
call in question the reality of this gift of intuitive vision, 
which reaches from the present into the future. But it is 
neither more nor less outside the limits of nature than the 
vibrations of the rod of the " Diviner " on the surface of 
the earth revealing the water beneath. 
 
Ramakrishna was a wonderful wand in the hand of the 
Mother. Extraordinary tales are told of his physical and 
spiritual hypersensitiveness. Towards the end of his life 
such was his horror of riches that he could no longer touch 
gold without being burnt. 21 It is also maintained that the 
mere touch of an impure person gave him physical pain 
analogous to the bite of a cobra. 22 
 
woman as through a glass case ... I satisfy myself concerning the 
character of my disciples before I initiate them." 
 
What man of intuition can fail to recognize this method of thought, 
the use of this inward eye opening under lowered lids in the lonely 
centre of the spirit on the still warm spoils of the world, captured 
by the lure of the senses ? Only the mode of expression varies 
and the intensity of the eye. 
 
11 Vivekananda relates, " Even when he was sleeping, if I touched 
him with a piece of money, his hand would become bent and his 
whole body would become as if it were paralysed. 1 ' (My Master.) 
 
11 In illustration of this legendary trait : One day when in the 
kindness of his heart he had consented to touch a man, who, 
though outwardly without reproach was inwardly defiled, and who 
insisted that Ramakrishna should enroll him among his disciples, 
Ramakrishna howled with pain. He said to the man sorrowfully 
and kindly, " The touch of divine bliss has become in you a cobra's 
poison. It is not in this life, my son : " and continued under his 
breath, " Your liberation." 
 
A thousand other instances of this hypersensitiveness might be 
related. A blow given to a man in the street by a furious enemy 
left its physical mark on the flesh of Ramakrishna. His nephew 
saw his back red and inflamed at the sight of a man whose back 
was scored with the whip. And Girish Chandra Ghosh, whose 
 
142 
 
 
 
THE CALL OF THE DISCIPLES 
 
At sight he could read the soul of those who approached 
him, and so, if he accepted them as his disciples, it was 
with full knowledge. 28 He discovered in a hardly formed 
adolescent with character scarcely developed the exact task 
for which he had been born. Sometimes he discovered a 
great destiny, suspected least of all by the person concerned. 
Perhaps he helped such destiny to be born by announcing 
it. This great moulder of souls cast with his fingers of fire 
the bronze of Vivekananda as well as the delicate and tender 
wax of Yogananda or Brahmananda. A curious fact is 
that the most resolute to resist him, were bound sooner or 
later to yield to the spiritual election he had made. They 
then brought as much passion into play in submitting to 
him as they had formerly used in withstanding him. He 
had the power of divining, seizing and keeping those spirits 
fore-ordained for his mission, and it would appear that the 
hawk eye of the Paramahamsa was never mistaken. 
 
witness is unimpeachable, has certified to the fact of his stigmata. 
This spiritual contact with all forms of life made him at one even 
with animals and plants. It has been said of him, that he felt a 
brutal step upon the earth as it were upon his own heart. 
 
11 He did not blindly depend upon his own intuition. He visited 
the tutors of his young disciples, he learnt all about them and 
studied them in meditation. With a remarkable and scrupulous 
attention he noted their physiological characteristics of respiration, 
sleep and even digestion. He held that they were of considerable 
importance in confirming his diagnosis of their spiritual faculties 
and destiny. 
 
 
 
143 
 
 
 
IX 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
IT is possible to divide the train of great souls, with which 
he surrounds himself, into two classes : a third order, 1 
as it were of men and women, who remained serving God 
in the world and the chosen band of apostles. 
 
Let us first consider the former : for these disciples or 
listeners belonging to the second (third Order) illustrate the 
spirit of broad " catholicity " animating Ramakrishna, and 
to what an extent his religion took into account, for others 
as well as for himself, the common duties of humanity. 
 
He did not ask men of goodwill to leave all and follow 
him. On the contrary he was careful to refrain from say- 
ing, " Forsake all to seek salvation 1 " to those already 
caught by worldly ties, such as married people and fathers 
of families. 
 
He forbade his disciples to sacrifice the legitimate rights 
of others " just because you, my son, wish to become a 
holy man." Personal salvation was mere selfishness in too 
many cases, and therefore resulted in a worse death of the 
soul. 
 
"... We owe a debt to the gods. We owe a debt to 
parents. We owe a debt to ojir wives. ... No work can 
be satisfactorily concluded until the debt to parents at least 
has been paid. . . . Harish gave up his wife and lives 
here. But if his wife had not been provided for, I should 
have called him a wicked fellow. . . . There are those 
who are constantly quoting scripture, but their deeds and 
their words do not tally. Rama Prasana says that Manu 
ordered that Sadhus should be served. And his old mother 
 
1 Third Order : It was the name given by St. Francis of Assisi* 
to a half lay, half religious order to which pious people living in 
the world could (and can still) belong. 
 
144 
 
 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
was dying of hunger and was obliged to beg for what she 
needed : . . . That enrages me : Not even a depraved 
mother ought to be deserted. ... So long as parents 
remain in want the practice of devotion avails nothing. 2 
 
" The brother of S. came here for several days. He had 
left his wife and his children in the care of his brother-in- 
law. I rebuked him severely. . . . Was it not criminal 
to leave his home, when he had so many children to bring 
up ? Was it for strangers to feed them and be troubled 
with them ? It was a scandal : . . . I told him to go and 
look for work. ..." 
 
" You should bring up your children, provide for your 
wife, and put by what is necessary for her to live upon 
after your death. If you do not do so you are heartless ; 
and a man without compassion is not worthy of the name 
of man." 8 
 
" I tell people that they must fulfil their duties in the 
world as well as think about God. I do not ask them to 
renounce all (smiling). The other day in the course of a 
lecture, Keshab said, ' O God, grant that we may be plunged 
in the river of Devotion and attain the Ocean of Satchi- 
dananda (Being, Knowledge, Eternal Felicity) : ' The 
women were present sitting behind a screen. I showed 
them to Keshab and said, ' If you are all plunged in at once, 
what will be their fate ? . . . So you must come out of 
the water from time to time ; immerse yourselves and 
come out alternately : ' Keshab and the others began to 
laugh. . . ." 4 
 
1 Gospel of Ramakrishna, II, 251 et seq. The Ramakrishna Mis- 
sion has followed the teachings of the Master. It does not admit 
anyone to the monastic life unless his family voluntarily renounce 
him. For they hold that a man* who flees from worldly responsi- 
bility is too weak to be exposed to the heavier responsibility of 
God's service. (Cf. Mukerji.) 
 
Life of Ramakrishna, p. 587. 
 
* The Gospel, II. 266. 
 
The peasant's son knew much more about the necessities of 
existence than the rich Keshab, and that there is more merit if a 
poor workman finds a place for one single thought of God during 
the day, than if he consecrated hours to religious offices like an 
idle devotee. 
 
" One day (here is one of his pregnant and piquant parables) 
Narada thought that he was the most pious of men. The Lord 
 
145 L 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
" Your duty as a married man is to live with your wife 
as brother and sister as soon as one or two children have 
been born, and to pray to God that you may be granted 
the power to live a perfect spiritual life exercising self- 
control." 6 
 
" Undoubtedly a man, who has once tasted the bliss of 
God, finds the world insipid. To lead a religious life in the 
world is to stay in a room with only a feeble ray of light. 
Those who are used to the open air cannot live in prison. 6 
But, if you live in a house, you have duties to perform. 
Learn in accomplishing them always to enjoy the ray of 
light. Do not lose a particle of it, and never lose touch 
with it ; when you are at work, use only one of your hands, 
and let the other touch the feet of the Lord. When your 
work is suspended, take His feet in both your hands and 
put them over your heart ! . . . 7 What will you gain, if 
you renounce the world ? Family life is a fortress for you. 
Moreover, he who has attained knowledge, is always free. 
It is only the lunatic who says, ' I am enchained/ that 
ends by being so. ... The mind is all in all. If it is free, 
you are free. Whether in the forest or in the world I am 
not enchained. I am the son of God, the King of kings. 
Who then dare put me in chains ? . . ." 
 
So he offered each one the means of freedom to drink 
from an inner spring, to share the joy of universal Existence, 
which is God, contained within each and every individual, 
without going against his own nature, without mutilating 
it or " forcing "it, and above all without wronging one 
 
told him to go and see a peasant who was more pious than he. 
He went. The peasant invoked the name of Hari when he got 
up and when he went to bed ; the rest of the day he worked in the 
fields. Narada did not understand. Then the Lord told him to 
take a cup filled to the brim with oil and to cany it round the 
town without spilling a drop. Narada obeyed. When he came 
back without having spilt a drop, the Lord asked, ' How many 
times did you think of Me ? ' ' Lord, how could I think of you ? 
My mind was concentrated on the cup of oil.' Thus the Lord made 
Narada understand how great was the peasant's devotion, who, in 
spite of his work, did not forget to call upon His name. 11 (Sri 
Ramakrishna's Teachings, I, 45.) 
 
'Gospel, I, 403. 
 
Interview with Trailokya Nath Sanyal. 
 
T Interview with Keshab and his disciples, 1882. 
 
146 
 
 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
hair of the head of anyone dependent upon him. Far 
from forbidding a man to feel legitimate affection, he showed 
it to be a means of enlightenment, a peaceful canal with 
beautiful reflections, leading the pure and the simple to 
God. Here is a charming example : 
 
The daughter of one of his disciples (Manila! Mallik) 
was troubled. She told him sorrowfully that when she 
prayed she could not concentrate. Ramakrishna asked 
her : 
 
" What do you love best in the world ? " 
 
She replied that it was her brother's little child. 
 
" Very well," answered the affectionate Master, " fix 
your thoughts upon him/' 
 
She did so and through the little boy she grew in devotion 
to the child Krishna. 8 
 
How I love this flower of tenderness in him ! What deep 
significance it has ! Each one of us, be his heart as dark 
as night, has the divine spark in the most humble impulse 
of true love. There is nobody quite destitute of a tiny 
lamp, just enough to light up his path. And all ways are 
good ways even the bad ones, 9 and each individual destiny, 
provided that every man follows his own with loyal sincerity. 
 
8 Here is another anecdote of the same kind : 
 
A good grandmother grew old, and wished to adopt a religious 
life at Brindaban. Ramakrishna dissuaded her, on the ground that 
she loved her granddaughter too much and that her meditations 
would be troubled by thoughts of her. He added : 
 
" All the good you could expect from living at Brindaban will 
come of its own accord to you, if you cultivate your sweet affection 
for your granddaughter in the thought that she is Sri Radhika 
Herself. Fondle her just as much as you are wont ; feed and dress 
her to your heart's content but^ always think to yourself that in 
those acts you are offering your worship to the goddess of 
Brindaban/' (Sri Ramakrishna' s Teachings, par. 70.) 
 
And so live your life and love your dear ones in innocence and 
peace ! This means that you see God under their veil and give 
Him thanks. , , 
 
" The vital point is your ardent desire for truth, whatever be 
the path you follow. God knows the secrets of your heart ; and 
it matters little if you take the wrong path, so long as you are sincere. 
He Himself will lead you back to the right path It is well-known 
that no road is perfect. Each person believes that his watch goes 
well, but in truth none knows the correct time. But that does not 
hinder people's work/ 1 (Life of Sri Ramaknshna, p. 647.) 
 
147 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
The rest is God's business. Have confidence then and go 
forward ! 
 
Therefore live your life and love your loved ones in all 
innocence and peace ; all you have to do is to see God 
under their dear shapes and give thoughts to Him. 
 
And how deeply and indulgently Ramakrishna's maternal 
eye penetrated and understood, so that he knew how to 
guide the troubled souls of the most lost of his children, 
is shown in a story worthy of the Franciscan legends of his 
relations with the comedian, Girish Chunder Ghosh. 
 
This great actor and dramatist was a Bohemian and a 
debauchee, a rebel against God, although his genius enabled 
him on occasions to write beautiful religious works. 10 But 
he regarded such writings as a game. He did not realize 
a fact that struck Ramakrishna at the first glance, that he 
himself was the plaything of God. 
 
He heard people talk of the Paramahamasa, and was 
curious to see him, as he might have been curious to see 
a freak in a circus. At their first meeting he was drunk 
and he insulted him. Ramakrishna in a calm and bantering 
tone said to him, 
 
" At least you might drink to God ; Perhaps He drinks 
as well. . . ." 
 
The drunkard, his mouth agape, exclaimed, 
 
" How do you know ? " 
 
" If He did not drink, how could He have created this 
topsy-turvy world ? " 
 
Girish remained in stupefied silence. When he had gone, 
Ramakrishna said quietly to his astounded disciples : 
 
" That man is a great devotee u of God/ 1 
 
At his own invitation he went to see Girish act in his 
Calcutta theatre. 12 Girish w4s vain and looked for com- 
pliments. But Ramakrishna said to him, 
 
" My son, you suffer from a crooked soul." 
 
10 Some of them have been translated from Bengali into English. 
He is regarded as one of the greatest Bengali dramatists. 
 
11 " Devotee " is used here, as elsewhere in this book, as mean- 
ing, devoted to God, one who has given himself wholly to God. 
 
11 Towards the end of 1884. He was present at one of the first 
performances of Chaitanya-lila and in 1885 he saw performances of 
four or five other plays of Girish, in particular the dramatized life 
of Buddha. 
 
I 4 8 
 
 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
Girish was furious and loaded him with insults. Rama- 
krishna blessed him and went away. The next day Girish 
came to beg his pardon, and became a disciple of Rama- 
krishna. But he could not give up drinking. Ramakrishna 
never asked him to do so, with the result that eventually 
Girish broke the habit ; for Ramakrishna had strengthened 
his resolution by allowing him to feel that he was absolutely 
free. 
 
But this was not enough. Ramakrishna told him that 
to refrain from doing evil was too negative a virtue ; he 
must draw near to God. Girish found this impossible, for 
he had never been able to submit to discipline. In despair 
he said that he would prefer suicide to meditation and 
prayer. 
 
" I am not asking you for much," Ramakrishna replied. 
" Just one prayer before you eat, and one prayer before 
you go to bed. Can you not do it ? " 
 
" No ; I hate routine. I cannot pray or meditate. I 
cannot even think of God for a second/' 
 
" Good/ 1 replied Ramakrishna. " Well, if you really 
desire to see the Lord, but if at the same time you will 
not take a single step towards Him, will you make me 
your proxy ? I will do your praying for you, while you 
will lead your own life. But take care ; you must promise 
me to live from henceforth absolutely at the Lord's mercy/' 
 
Girish accepted his suggestion without fully realizing the 
consequences. His life was no longer under the control of 
his own will, but at the mercy of inner forces, like a leaf 
in the wind, or like a kitten whose mother can carry it 
equally well on to a king's bed as a dustheap. 18 He had 
to accept this condition without demur, and it was not 
easy. Girish struggled loyally, but once he was driven to 
say, 
 
" Yes, I will do it." 
 
" What is that ? " Ramakrishna cried sternly. " You 
have no longer the will to do or not to do. Remember, 
 
* " Like a cat " (Marjari) is the classical simile of the Bhakti. 
The cat saves its kittens by carrying them inert. Certain sects 
of Southern India conceive thus of salvation. They believe it is 
accomplished exclusively by God. (Cf . Paul Masson-Oursel : Sketch 
of the History of Indian Philosophy, p. 247.) 
 
149 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
I am your proxy. Your behaviour is according to the 
will of the Lord within you. I pray for you ; but my 
prayers will avail nothing unless you abandon all initiative." 
 
Girish submitted, and the result of this discipline was 
that after a time he attained self-surrender to the impersonal 
Self ; he was conquered by God. 
 
But he did not renounce his profession as dramatist 
and actor, and Ramakrishna never desired it. Instead he 
purified it. He had been the first to introduce women 
on to the Bengal stage, and now he rescued many unfor- 
tunate girls from misery and uplifted them. Afterwards 
he took them to Ramakrishna's monastery. He became 
one of the most religious followers of the Master, one of 
the greatest of his householder disciples. Notwithstanding 
his freedom of speech and caustic humour, he was respected 
and venerated after the Master's death by the monastic 
disciples. 
 
As he was dying, he said, 
 
" The folly of matter is a terrible veil. Take it away 
from my eyes, Ramakrishna ! " 14 
 
And so, his religious sense, a sixth sense more highly 
developed in him than any of the others, revealed to Rama- 
krishna those among the passers-by, who were predestined 
for a divine sowing, those in whom God was sleeping. 
One glance, one gesture, was enough to awaken it. Nearly 
all the disciples yielded to him at the first meeting, the 
vibrations of their inner being whether they wished to 
do so or not. He scrutinized them through and through. 
Other men had only their own salvation to find, but the 
true disciples were to be leaders and have the charge of 
other souls. That was why* when they were recruited, 
they were, as I have said, subjected to physical 16 and moral 
examination, followed after their admission by a paternal 
and ever watchful discipline. 
 
He preferred them young, sometimes very young, hardly 
 
14 1 have followed the narrative of D. G. Mukerji in this account. 
 
11 He was very particular about perfect health. The chief dis- 
ciples, Vivekananda, Brahmananda, Saradananda, Turiyananda, 
etc., seem to have been of athletic build, tall and broad, and pos- 
sessing rare physical strength. I repeat that he was always careful 
to examine the tongue, the chest, the working of the organs, before 
sanctioning the exercises of intensive meditation. 
 
150 
 
 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
adolescent, 16 and unmarried, " not yet caught in the net 
of desire, nor entrapped by riches, free from ties. . . ." 
If, like Brahmananda, they were married, he examined 
the wife as well, and satisfied himself that she would help 
and not hinder her young husband in his mission. In 
general the disciples of this unlettered man were well- 
educated and knew at least one foreign language in addition 
to Sanskrit. But this was not an essential ; the example 
of Latu is significant, although it may be said that he was 
the exception to prove the rule. A humble and ignorant 
servant, a peasant of Behar and a stranger to Bengal, he 
was awakened to eternal life by one glance from Rama- 
krishna, for he possessed unwittingly the same genius of 
heart as the Master. 17 
 
" Many of us," said Swami Turiyananda, " had to go 
through the muddy waters of knowledge before we attained 
 
God, but Latu jumped over them, like Hanuman." 
* * * 
 
What did Ramakrishna teach his disciples ? Vivekan- 
anda has emphasized the originality of his methods, especially 
in the India of his day ; since then some of his educational 
principles have been adopted and systematized by the new 
schools of Europe. Up to that time in India the word of 
the master was law. A Guru exacted from his Chelas (pupils) 
a deeper respect than that paid to parents. Ramakrishna 
would have none of it. He put himself on a level with 
his young disciples. He was their companion, their brother ; 
he talked familiarly with tlapji and without any trace of 
superiority. The advice he gave them was not his own* 
It came from the Mother through his lips. "What has 
 
1 Turiyananda was fourteen yws old, Subodhananda seventeen. 
 
17 Few lives of saints are more moving than that of this boy 
servant of a householder disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, who came 
by boat up the Ganges on behalf of his master to lay an offering 
at Ramakrishna's feet. Their glances met. Two days later Latu 
came and gave himself to the Master a gift for life. He was so 
completely emptied of self that he feared, even when he was doing 
good, lest he should be caught again in the trap of self-love or of 
routine ; he was only reassured when he felt himself fused in the 
goodness of God. This illiterate man understood the profound 
language of music. When he was dying, " Spitting his body " to 
use his own rude expression, he cried in ecstasy, " I hear the sound 
of a flute. At last I am going to His meeting-place." 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
it to do with me ? " Moreover, words are mere accessories ; 
they are not instruction. True instruction does not consist 
in inculcating doctrine 18 but in " communicating/' But 
what is to be communicated ? A man's self ? Not even 
that, or rather something more than that the One self. 
Or we may describe it as the condition of inward abundance, 
of vital and digested riches called " Spirituality/' And 
this is to be communicated " as a flower might be given/' 
in the same way that a good gardener dispenses the sun 
and the sheltering shade to the budding souls entrusted 
to him, so that they may blossom and exhale their spiritual 
perfume. That is all. The rest comes from within them. 
" When the lotus is full blown, the bees come and collect 
the honey. Let the lotus of character expand naturally." 
 
Still less was there any question of imposing his own 
ideas upon them. There was to be no established Credo ; 
I have already quoted his words : 
 
" Mother do not expound beliefs through my voice ; " 
 
And ritual even less ; 
 
" God cannot be won by a system of ritual," but only 
by love and sincerity. 
 
There were no fruitless discussions on metaphysics and 
theology ; 
 
" I do not like argument. God is above the powers of 
reason. I see that all which exists is God. Then of what 
avail to reason ? . . . Go into the garden, eat the sacred 
mangoes and go out again ; You do not go in to count 
the leaves on the mango tree. So why waste time in 
disputes about reincarnation or idolatry ? " 19 
 
What then did matter ? Personal experience. Experi- 
ment first and then believe yi God. Belief ought not to 
precede but to follow religious experience. If it comes 
first, it is inconsistent. 
 
Nevertheless Ramakrishna presupposed his own belief 
that God is in everything, that He is everything, and that 
 
1 " Do not trouble yourselves with doctrine ; It is the Essence 
of existence in each man, which counts ; and this is spirituality. 
You must acquire it." 
 
According to Vivekananda the principle of his teaching was, 
" First form character, first earn spirituality, and results will come 
of themselves." (My Master.) 
 
19 Cf. The Gospel, passim. 
 
152 
 
 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
it therefore follows that whoever opens his eyes and looks 
around him will of necessity end by meeting Him. This 
union with God was such a deep and constant 20 reality 
in his case that he did not feel any need to prove it, and 
he would never have dreamt of imposing it upon others. 
He was too certain that every sane and sincere seeker 
would arrive at it by himself, and through himself alone. 
His sole care was to make his disciples sane and sincere. 
 
But who can gauge the moral influence of such a being 
wholly impregnated with God ? It is obvious that his 
tranquil and constant vision was intermingled with his 
flesh, like the scent of pines in autumn honey, and hence 
it would percolate over the tongues of his young and starving 
disciples, who drank in eagerly his gestures and his move- 
ments. But he himself had no suspicion of it. He left 
them free, so he believed. He believed that God was 
simply spreading His perfume through his substance, like 
thyme when the wind blows over it. The thyme makes no 
effort to convince you. All you have to do is to smell its 
fresh scent. 
 
This then was the essential part of Ramakrishna's dis- 
cipline. A man must have and keep his body, senses and 
spirit honest and pure, unspotted, unworn, as young as 
Adam. 
 
To achieve this the first rule was continence. 
 
This rule, which our anti-clerics of the West claim with 
ingenuous ignorance to be a monopoly of the Church of 
Rome, and against which they are never tired of launching 
their old and blunted arrows, is as old as the world 
(though if the whole world had applied it rigorously it 
would obviously never have Jived to grow old). All great 
 
10 It even reached the pitch of hallucination ; 
 
" Do you know what I see ? I see Him in all things. Man and 
the other creatures seem to me like miniature figures clothed in 
flesh ; and it is the Lord within them that moves head and feet 
and hands. Once I had this Vision : One Substance alone had 
taken all the forms of the Cosmos and all living creatures a wax 
 
house, with garden, men, cows, all of wax nothing but wax " 
 
(Gospel, I, 437.) 
 
" One day it was revealed to me that everything is Pure Spirit ; 
the temple vessels, the altar, men, beasts all pure Spirit ; and 
like a madman I began to rain flowers over everything. Every- 
thing that I saw, I worshipped. . . ." 
 
153 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
mystics and the majority of great idealists, the giants 
among the creators of the spirit, have clearly and instinc- 
tively realized what formidable power of concentrated soul, 
of accumulated creative energy, is generated by a renuncia- 
tion of the organic and psychic expenditure of sexuality. 
Even such free thinkers in matters of faith, and such sensu- 
alists as Beethoven, Balzac and Flaubert, have felt this. 
 
" Let me keep it for a higher purpose " (for God and 
creative art), Beethoven cried one day when he had repulsed 
the appeal of carnal passion. For a still stronger reason 
the impassioned of God cannot bear any division of them- 
selves ; for they know that their God will refuse to visit 
them in a house cumbered and soiled with desire. (Not 
only is the act called in question but the thought even 
more so.) It is not enough to practise sexual continence 
if concupiscence is hidden in the secrets of the heart ; 
for this would be impotence another sin rather than 
freedom. The rule is inflexible for Hindu Sannyasin ; and 
the spiritual guides as different as the tender, serene, almost 
feminine Ramakrishna and the masculine, ardent and pas- 
sionate Vivekananda, a torch of passion shaken by all 
winds that blow, allowed no compromise. 
 
" Absolute continence must be practised, if God is to 
be realized. If a man remains absolutely continent for 
twelve years, he achieves superhuman power. A new nerve 
develops in him, called " the nerve of intelligence." He 
can remember everything and know everything. Renuncia- 
tion of Kamini-Kanchana (woman and gold) is essential." n 
 
Poverty, chastity, the mystic marriage of St. Francis. 
The prescriptions of Churches and Sacred Books are super- 
fluous ; for kindred spirits of Jhe East and the West have 
arrived at the same conclusions and the same results. 
Generally speaking the man who dedicates himself to the 
inner life (whether it be called Christ, Shiva, or Krishna, 
or the pure idea of thought and art) " must have absolute 
empire over his senses." fl 
 
But that is not enough. Those (and they are in the 
 
11 Gospel of Ramakrishna, II, 223 et seq. t I, 252 et seq. The ques- 
tion is there treated by the Master in frank and open terms without 
any false modesty. 
 
11 Gospel of Ramakrishna, II, 223. 
 
154 
 
 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
majority) who have to remain in contact with the world 
and to work in it, must exercise the same " empire " over 
the object of their work and the intellectual passions that 
feed it. They must take care not to become the slaves 
of any activity, however noble, to which they may be 
devoted. 23 
 
" You cannot escape work, because nature (Prakriti) 
drives you to it. That being so, let all work be done as 
it should be done ! Then if it is done without attachment 
it leads to God, and is a means to attain the end and 
the end is God." 
 
" Without attachment " does not imply without con- 
science, or zeal of love of good work, but only with dis- 
interestedness. 
 
" To work without attachment is to work without the 
hope of reward or the fear of punishment, either in this 
world or in any other. . . ." 
 
But Ramakrishna was too human not to know that 
such an ideal is very rarely attained by frail humanity. 
 
" To work without attachment is extremely difficult, 
especially in our days, and can only be realized by a chosen 
few. ..." 
 
But it is a common duty to aspire at least to such detach- 
ment, and fervent prayer and true charity are aids to it. 
 
But stop ; the word charity is an equivocal one. Charity 
and philanthropy are usually classed as synonyms. Rama- 
krishna evinced a curious mistrust of the latter, unsurpassed 
by any of our Western satirists such as Dickens or Mirabeau, 
and he unmasked with laugh or insult the hypocrisy of 
certain " philanthropists," although he ran the risk of 
shocking many good people. ,More than once Ramakrishna 
told his faithful followers to be on their guard against 
ostentatious philanthropy. His intuition of the secret work- 
 
11 High disinterestedness with regard to their work has been 
shown by some of the most beautiful artists and proudest Chris- 
tian savants of the West even in the sceptical eighteenth century. 
I have admired it in men as proud as Gluck and Handel, as sensually 
human as Hasse and Mozart ; each showed complete indifference 
to the fate of their work after their death, leaving it, like Racine, 
to die in the full flood of creative power. I venture to say that 
no man has been able to achieve greatness unless he has attained 
to this height. 
 
155 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
ings of the heart led him to discover only too often in the 
activities and professions of charitable faith nothing but 
egoism, vanity, a desire for glory, or merely a barren agita- 
tion, which, without real love behind it, seeks to kill the 
boredom of life ; when it throws its mite to misery it is 
in reality trying to rid itself of its own haunting troubled 
vision rather than to help the unfortunate. To the good 
Mallik, who spoke to him about founding hospitals and 
relief works, he said, 
 
" Yes, but only on condition that you remain ' detached ' 
(that is to say entirely disinterested) in doing good/ 1 
 
He was almost carried away when he talked with worldly 
men, such as Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, the novelist, 
or with the manager of a newspaper (the Hindu Patriot), 
of so little account did he hold the intentions, the depth 
of soul and above all the acts of those, whose mouth is 
full of good works roads and works of public utility, etc. 
He denied that a single real or durable good could emerge 
from corrupt souls. First then men must purge themselves 
of their egoism, and not till that has been accomplished 
can they work usefully for the world. 
 
In order to elucidate Ramakrishna's attitude in this 
connection, I have asked many questions of the most 
authoritative of his still living disciples, those who represent 
his doctrine Swami Shivananda and Swami Ashokananda, 
and they have been at great pains to answer me. But 
in spite of some isolated instances, quoted above, attesting 
to the active philanthropy of Ramakrishna, they have not 
been able to prove that well-doing by works occupied any 
essential place in his teaching. This would be a grave 
charge (I say it in all loyalty), from the Western point of 
view which puts deeds before intentions, and the good of 
others before individual salvation, if we did not remember, 
first, that Ramakrishna repudiated the egoism of individual 
salvation just as much as philanthropy without disinterested 
love, and, next, that his object was to light the lamp of 
charity in every heart. 
 
What then is the difference between charity and self- 
love ? t4 Charity is the love emanating from us, not 
 
14 " Self-Love," it goes without saying, is used in its classical 
meaning of " Love of Self." 
 
156 
 
 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
limited in its application to self, family, sect, and country. 
Therefore a charity, which raises and leads men to God, 25 
is to be cultivated. 
 
For Ramakrishna charity meant nothing less than the 
love of God in all men; for God is incarnate in man. 26 
Nobody can truly love man, and hence nobody can help 
him unless he loves the God in him. And the corollary 
also holds good : nobody can really know God unless he 
has seen Him in every man. 27 
 
This is what the Abbot of the Order, Shivananda, the 
man whose task is to represent the true spirit of Rama- 
krishna in these days, wrote to me M lines whose spiritual 
sense will be familiar to the readers of Pascal : 
 
" You appear to conceive some distinction between the 
realization of the Divinity in man and the consciousness 
of universal suffering with regard to motives for service. 
It seems to me that these are merely two aspects of the 
same state of mind and not two different ones. It is only 
by realizing the Divinity inherent in man that we can 
truly grasp the depths of his misery ; for not till then 
will his condition of spiritual servitude, and his lack of 
perfection and divine happiness appeal to our conscience as 
almost tangible evidence. It is the sad feeling of contrast 
between the Divinity in man and his present ignorant 
state with all the suffering it entails that pricks the heart 
to serve mankind. Without the realization of this Divine 
Spirit in himself and in others true sympathy, true love, 
true service are impossible. That is why Sri Ramakrishna 
wished his disciples to attain Self-realization. Otherwise 
they could not consecrate themselves profitably to the 
service of humanity/' 29 
 
"Gospel of Ramakrishna, I, 261. 
 
** " You are seeking God ? Very well, look for Him in man ; 
The Divinity manifests itself in man more than in any other object. 
In truth God is everything ; but his power is more or less mani- 
fest in other objects. God incarnate in man is the most manifest 
power of God in the flesh. . . . Man is the greatest manifestation 
of God." (Gospel, I, 350.) 
 
17 " The attainment of perfect knowledge is to see God in every 
man." (Ibid., Vol. II.) 
 
" December 7, 1927. 
 
19 And again Swami Ashokananda wrote : " Service originates 
from love and sympathy in the ordinary plane. But . . . when 
 
157 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
But meanwhile humanity is suffering, humanity is dying, 
abandoned. Is it to be left without help ? Certainly 
not. For that which Ramakrishna never accomplished, 
which in fact he never could have accomplished within 
the bounds of his Karma and the limited horizon of his 
life (a life even then drawing to its close), he left to his 
greatest disciple, the heir of his word, Vivekananda to 
the man, whom indeed it was his particular mission to 
summon from the ranks of mankind to come to mankind's 
rescue. To him, almost in spite of himself, he entrusted 
the task of working in the world and of " alleviating the 
misery of the humble and the poor.' 1 80 
 
And Vivekananda brought a devouring passion and 
energy of action to it ; for his was a nature cast in a very 
different mould from his master's, one unable to wait a 
single day, a single hour before coming to the help of misery. 
He suffered it in his own flesh. It haunted him. It wrung 
from him cries of despair. He did not possess the strange 
serenity wherein, during his last years, the spirit of Rama- 
krishna floated that disembodied spirit that had pene- 
trated into the redoubtable sphere of a Beyond where 
good and evil were not : " The Absolute is without attach- 
ment to the good as well as to the evil. It is like the light 
of a lamp. You can with its help read the Holy Scriptures, 
but you can equally well commit forgery by the same 
light. . . . Whatever the sin, the evil or the misery we 
find in the world, they are only misery, evil or sin in relation 
to us. The Absolute is above and beyond. Its sun lights 
the evil as well as the good. 31 I am afraid that you must 
accept the facts of the universe as they are. It is not 
 
we learn to look upon suffering humanity as only God in different 
forms, we find that the consciousness of the Divine in men is the 
motive of service, and such service becomes a potent means of God- 
realization/' (Prabuddha Bharata, February, 1928.) Dare I say 
that it seems to me still more beautiful, still purer and higher to 
love and to serve the " suffering " without any thought of the " Divine " 
simply because it is suffering, and that forgetfulness of the Divine 
is perhaps nearer to the Divine than perpetual preoccupation with 
it, since it does not allow of the maintenance of any trace of " attach- 
ment " in the sense implied by Ramakrishna ? 
 
* The beautiful episode of 1886 will appear later, as it was told 
to me by Swami Shivananda, an eye-witness. 
 
M Gospel, I, 6, 87. 
 
158 
 
 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
given to man to penetrate clearly the ways of the Lord. 82 
I see and I realize that all three are of the same substance 
the victim of the sacrifice, the block and the executioner. 
. . . Ah, what a vision." 8S 
 
Yes, the vision has a tragic grandeur akin to the ocean. 
And it is good that all visible souls should plunge into it 
and renew their strength from time to time. It was well 
that at the bottom of his tender heart Ramakrishna kept 
its sovereign roaring and salt tang. But it is not for 
ordinary mortals. They run the risk of being maddened 
or petrified by terror. Their weakness is not fitted to 
achieve the synthesis of the Absolute and the Ego. In 
order that their vital spark may not be extinguished, " the 
wand of the ego imposed upon the ocean of Satchidananda 
(Being, Knowledge, Happiness) must be preserved/' It 
may be no more than " a line traced upon the water/' 
but " if you take it away, nothing remains but the one 
undivided Ocean." 34 So keep it as a protection against 
vertigo. God himself has allowed this semblance to support 
the stumbling steps of His children. They are none the 
less His. To those who asked Ramakrishna anxiously, 
" Lord, you speak to us of those who realize the Unity : 
' I am He ' ... But what of those who cannot do so, 
those who say : ' Thou art not me. I seek Thee/ What 
becomes of them ? " He replied with a reassuring smile, 
" There is no difference : whether you call Him ' Thou ' 
or call Him ' I am He. 1 Men that realize Him through 
' Thou ' have a very lovely relation with Him. It is very 
much like that of an old trusted servant with his Master. 
As they both grow old, the Master leans and depends on 
his friend the servant, more and more. . . . The Master 
consults his servant regarding every serious matter that 
he wishes to undertake. One day ... the Master takes 
him by the hand, then seats him on his own august seat. 
The servant is embarrassed and . . . says, ' What are you 
doing, my Lord ? ' But the Master holds him on the 
throne next to Himself saying, ' You are the same as I, 
my Beloved.' " * 
 
Ramakrishna could always adapt his thought to the 
 
Gospel, I, 101. ' Ibid., I, 437- i4 && IL 
 
" Cf. Mukerji, op. cit., p. 161. 
 
159 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
range of vision of each individual disciple ; and far from 
destroying the fragile equilibrium of the human spirit, he 
was careful to establish it by delicately graduating the 
proportion of the elements constituting it. He could be 
seen changing his method according to each temperament 
to such an extent that he sometimes seemed to hold con- 
tradictory views. He counselled energy to the angelic 
Yogananda, whose excessive good nature led him into error. 
 
" A devotee ought not to be a fool." 
 
He scolded him severely for not knowing how to defend 
himself. But he vehemently enjoined the violent Niran- 
janananda, ever ready to march against an enemy or to 
attack anyone who had insulted him, to cultivate a mild 
and forgiving spirit in face of injury. In the disciples 
" of the heroic type," he tolerated certain weaknesses, which 
he denied to the weaker ones, because the former could 
not be permanently affected by them. With unerring tact 
he knew how to calculate the force of reaction in each 
being. 
 
It might have been expected that a man who lived in 
constant contact with the Absolute beyond the norm con- 
trolling the course of ordinary life, would have been incapable 
of understanding and guiding the thousand nuances of daily 
action. But the contrary was true in the case of Rama- 
krishna. His freedom from the chains of Illusion removed 
in the first instance the blinkers of all his prejudices, fanati- 
cism and narrowness of heart and mind. And as there 
was no longer any impediment to his free and frank regard, 
he judged all things and all men with laughing good sense. 
One of his Socratic discussions would have surprised a 
hearer of to-day. They are often nearer to Montaigne and 
Erasmus than to the Galilean. Their ironic turn, their 
gay humour have a refreshing effect. The ardent atmo- 
sphere of Bengal must have doubled their appeal to young 
brains, always ready to be carried away. I will here give 
two piquant examples of them ; the parables of the Elephant 
and the Serpent. In the former Ramakrishna with divert- 
ing irony warned his disciples against the two opposite 
extremes of violence and absolute non-resistance. In the 
latter he seems to be treating himself ironically ; he had 
perceived the dangers of amoralism and of indifference to 
 
160 
 
 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
action, which tend to give young heads the sun-stroke of 
the omnipresent God, and he banteringly gauged the degree 
of His presence in us and our surroundings, and the hier- 
archy of his forms and laws. 
 
The Elephant 
 
" Once upon a time there lived in a certain forest a holy 
man, who had a great number of disciples. One day he 
taught them as follows : ' God/ he said, ' is in everything. 
Therefore we ought to bow our heads in adoration before 
every single object in the world/ It happened that one 
of his disciples had gone to collect wood for the sacrificial 
fire. Suddenly he heard a shout : ' Scatter ; Scatter : A 
mad elephant is coming ; ' Immediately they all fled, 
except one, who reasoned thus : ' The elephant is God in 
one form ; why then should I run away ? ' So he stayed 
where he was, he bowed to the elephant as the Lord, and 
began to sing his praises. The elephant-driver yelled : 
' Save yourself ! Save yourself ! . . / But the disciple 
would not move a single step. The elephant seized him 
in its trunk and flung him a great distance. The unfortunate 
man remained motionless, stunned, bruised and bleeding. 
When his Master heard what had happened he ran to his 
assistance with the others. They carried him into the house 
and cared for his wounds. When he recovered consciousness 
they asked him : ' Why did you not save yourself when 
you heard the elephant-driver shout ? ' The young man 
replied, ' Our Master had just taught us that God reveals 
Himself in every living creature. I thought of the elephant 
as God, and so I did not want to leave the place/ Then 
the Guru said to him, ' My son, it was true that it was an 
elephant God who appeared ; But did not the elephant- 
driver God tell you to seek shelter ? It is quite true that 
God reveals Himself in all things, but if He is manifest in 
the elephant, is He not just as much manifest in the elephant- 
driver if not more ? Tell me then why you paid no 
attention to his warning. . . / " 86 
 
And here is the substance of a mischievous conversation 
of the Master with the youthful Vivekananda : 
 
"Gospel, I, 56. 
 
161 M 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
The Serpent 
 
The Master (smiling) : " What think you, Narendra ? 87 
People who live in the world often express themselves 
very bitterly with regard to those who live in God. When 
an elephant goes his way along the highroad, a crowd of 
curs and other animals always run after him, yapping and 
snapping at his heels. But he takes no notice and proceeds 
along his own undeviating way. Suppose, my child, people 
speak evil of you behind your back, what would you do ? " 
 
Narendra (scornfully) : "I should regard them as the 
curs in the street barking at my heels/' 
 
The Master (laughing) : " No, my child, you must never 
go as far as that. Remember that God dwells in all things 
animate and inanimate. So all things deserve our respect. 
. . . The only thing that we can do in our intercourse 
with men, is to take care that we consort with the good 
and avoid the society of the wicked. It is true that God 
is even in the tiger. But it does not follow that we ought 
to put our arms round his neck and press him to our heart." 
(The disciples laughed.) 
 
Narendra : " Must one then remain quiet, if rogues insult 
one ? " 
 
The Master : " Once upon a time there was a field 
wherein herd boys watched over their cattle. In the 
same field lived a terrible and poisonous serpent. One 
day a holy man happened to pass by. The children ran 
to him and cried : ' Holy man, do not go that way. Beware 
of the serpent/ ' My children/ said the holy man, ' I am 
not afraid of your serpent. I know the Mantras which 
will keep me safe from all harm/ So saying, he continued 
his way. . . . The serpeitf saw him and came towards 
him raising his hood. The holy man murmured a charm, 
and the serpent fell at his feet as powerless as an earth- 
worm. ' Well/ said the holy man, ' Why do you behave 
thus, doing evil to others ? I am going to give you a 
Sacred name (that of God) to repeat, and you will learn 
to love God : in the end you will see Him ; and the desire 
to do evil will leave you/ He whispered the Sacred Name 
in the serpent's ear. The serpent bowed and said, ' O 
 
17 1 would remind the reader that Narendra or Narenwas^the real 
name of Vivekananda. 
 
162 
 
 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
Master, what must I do to be saved ? ' ' Repeat the Sacred 
Name/ said the holy man, ' and do no ill to any living 
creature ; I shall come again to see how you have been 
behaving/ And so saying, the holy man departed. . . . 
Days went by. The little herd boys noticed that the 
serpent did not bite. They threw stones at it. It remained 
as quiet and inoffensive as an earthworm. One of the 
little wretches took it by the tail, waved it round his head 
and then threw it against the stones several times. The 
serpent vomited blood and was left for dead. During the 
night he came to himself ; slowly, slowly he dragged himself 
to his hole ; his body was broken in pieces. After several 
days he was nothing but a skeleton ; it took him so much 
time before he could drag himself out to look for food. 
For fear of the children he only went out at night. From 
the time of his initiation by the Brahmin he had stopped 
doing evil to any creature. As well as he could he tried 
to live on leaves and other wisps. The holy man returned. 
He looked everywhere in order to find the serpent. The 
children told him that he was dead. The Brahmin was 
astonished ; he knew that the name of the Lord, which 
the serpent repeated, had the spiritual power to make 
death impossible before the problem of life had been solved, 
that is to say, before God had been seen. He recommenced 
his search, and called the serpent several times by name. 
The serpent came out of his hole, and bowed to his teacher. 
The following dialogue took place. 
 
The Holy Man : Well, how are you ? 
 
The Serpent : Thank you, Master. By the grace of God 
I am very well. 
 
The Holy Man : How is it^ then, that you are nothing 
but skin and bone ? What has happened to you ? 
 
The Serpent : O Master, in obedience to your command 
I tried not to harm any living creature. I have been 
living on leaves and other scraps. And so it is possible 
that I have grown thinner. 
 
The Holy Man : I fear that it is not simply a change 
of diet that has brought you to this state. There must 
have been something else. Tell me 1 
 
The Serpent: Ah; ... perhaps ... yes ... Icansee 
what it was without a doubt. One day the little herd boys 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
treated me rather badly. They took me by the tail, and 
banged me against the stones several times very hard. 
Poor children ! They had no idea of the change that had 
taken place in me. How were they to know that I would 
not bite anyone ? 
 
The Holy Man : But what madness ! what madness ! 
you must be an idiot not to know to stop your enemies 
from ill-treating you thus. . . . What I forbade you to 
do was to bite any of God's creatures. But why did you 
not hiss at those who wanted to kill you, so as to frighten 
them? . . ." 
 
And Ramakrishna looked at his disciples with a twinkle 
in his eye : 
 
" So raise your hood. . . . But do not bite ; . . . A 
man living in society, particularly if he is a citizen and 
the father of a family, ought to pretend to resist evil in 
order to defend himself. But he must at the same time 
be very careful not to return evil for evil." 
 
I will not vouch for the practical and moral excellence 
of this last receipt, which savours rather of " Si vis pacem, 
para bellum ; " a fallacy this generation has been obliged 
to expose, to its cost. But I will preserve the mocking 
smile of this spiritual story-teller, so reminiscent of La 
Fontaine. We must necessarily also consider Ramakrishna's 
method as at bottom a means to re-establish equilibrium 
in the ship of action, swinging perilously and driven by 
opposing winds from one bank to another, by interposing 
a common-sense view between the two extremes. 
 
It is obvious that he practised and professed " Ahimsa " 
(hurt nothing) quite as much as Gandhi. He specifically 
proclaimed it, not only with regard to man but all living 
creatures. 88 
 
ai Here is another sheaf of beautiful stories : 
 
First this admirable parable : " God in Everything ' (Gospel, II, 
129). 
 
" Once upon a time there was a monastery, whose inmates went 
out every day to beg. One day a monk, having issued forth to 
seek food, found a Zemindar (rural proprietor) beating a poor man 
very severely. . . . He interfered. . . . The Zemindar in a furious 
rage turned his anger against the monk and beat him until he lost 
consciousness. The other monks, warned of what had happened, 
came running up ; they found him lying on the ground, carried 
 
164 
 
 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
But he was more of a humorist and more versatile than 
Gandhi, never anxious to lay down one definite rule, but 
weighing in one glance the pros and cons of a question. The 
result was that this passionate lover of the Absolute possessed 
in the world of Maya a very fine sense of the golden mean, 
and although, like the Mother, he flung up kite souls into 
the vault of heaven, he always brought them back to earth 
by the string of common sense if the hour had not yet come 
for them to fly away. 
 
He made them remain in the world so that they might 
teach it ; but first they had to be taught themselves 
 
him gently to the Math (Monastery) and laid him upon his bed. 
Sitting round him sadly they fanned him, and one gently poured 
a little milk into his mouth. After a time he came to himself, 
opened his eyes and looked around him. One of them, anxious to 
know if he recognized his brethren, cried in his ear, ' Brother, who 
poured the milk into your mouth ? ' The monk replied in a faint 
voice, ' Brother, He who beat me, He Himself poured the milk 
into my mouth. . . .' " 
 
And this anecdote (Life of Ramakrishna, p. 620) : 
 
" Young Kali used to go fishing. The Master asked him, ' Why 
are you so cruel ? ' Kali replied, ' I am not doing anything wrong. 
We are all Atman and Atman is immortal, so I do not really kill 
the fishes/ The Master said to him, ' My dear child, you deceive 
yourself. A man of realization (that is to say, one who realizes the 
Divinity in himself) can never be cruel to others. It is a physical 
impossibility. He could not even think of it. . . .' " 
 
(Cf. Life of Ramakrishna, p. 417 ; Gospel, II, 204. Ramakrishna 
himself reached such a point that he was unwilling to pick the 
flowers for the offerings of worship.) 
 
Finally, this moving scene was enacted, as has been recorded by 
Swami Saradananda : 
 
" One day (in 1884) Ramakrishna was talking to his disciples. 
He was explaining to them the essential principles of the Vaish- 
navite religion, of which one is ' Kindness to all creatures/ ' This 
Universe belongs to Krishna. Know this in the depth of your 
being, and be kind to all creatures. Kind to all creatures/ he 
repeated ajid passed into Samadhi (ecstasy). Coming to himself, 
he murmured, ' Kind to all creatures . . . Kind ? . . . Are you 
not ashamed, insignificant insect ? How can you show pity to 
God's creatures ? Who are you to show mercy ? . . . No, No. 
Mercy is impossible. Serve them as if they were Shiva ; . ' 
 
" Thereupon Naren (Vivekananda), as he went out -^ 
others, expounded to them the deep meaning of these WOE 
they had only half understood. He interpreted them ff _ 
 
of the doctrine of Service, which reconciled the high Mftf4f God 
with beneficent activity/' 
 
165 
 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
they had to gain an exact knowledge of their own nature, 
and the natures of others round them and the Divine Essence 
permeating them all ; most of them only attained it by 
laborious, gradual and constant progress ; for this knowledge 
had to be won by their own efforts, although doubtless they 
could call upon the paternal help of the Guru ; but the will 
of the Guru was never substituted for their own ; he was 
only there to help them to find their bearings. With a few 
exceptions he refused to interfere 89 in order to modify their 
will during the first stages, when they were the builders of 
 
t9 In general, but not always, he refused to do so. (Further on 
you will read of his conquest of Vivekananda ; but then, the pos- 
session of that royal prey was vital ; moreover, Vivekananda was 
of a stature to defend himself, as will be seen.) But even when 
Ramakrishna wished to leave his disciples their freedom, was he 
always able to do so ? He possessed curious and formidable powers 
of Yoga. He used them as little as possible, for he detested occult 
methods, and was absolutely opposed to " miracles " ; he did not 
think that they were impossible, but that they were useless and 
even harmful. He showed the same repugnance to them as Christ ; 
so-called supernatural powers seemed to him a hindrance in the 
path of spiritual perfection, which ought to be the natural fruit of 
the heart. But was he always sufficiently master of such powers 
not to use them ? Tulasi (Nirmalananda) had not yet met him 
and was waiting on a verandah ; he saw a man pass by absorbed, 
with uncertain gait. This man (it was Ramakrishna) gave him one 
glance without stopping. Tulasi felt a sort of creeping sensation 
in his bosom and remained paralysed for a moment. Tarak (Shiva- 
nanda) was facing Ramakrishna, motionless and silent ; the Master's 
look fell upon him ; Tarak dissolved in tears and trembled through- 
out his members. At his first visit Kaliprasad (Abhedananda) 
touched Ramakrishna, and was immediately flooded with a wave 
of energy. 
 
At other times the Master seemed deliberately to provoke the 
awakening of inner forces. He* would help the disciples when he 
saw the efforts they were making of their own free wills. So when 
he saw Latu (Adbhutananda) exhausting himself by great devotion, 
he prayed the Mother to grant him the fruit of his pious desire ; 
and several days afterwards, Latu passed into ecstasy during his 
meditation. When Subodh (Subodhananda) visited him for the 
second time, he touched his breast, saying " Awake, Mother, awake 1 
and wrote with his finger on his tongue ; Subodh felt a torrent of 
light rising from his inner self to his brain : the forms of Gods and 
Goddesses passed like lightning and faded into the infinite ; he lost 
all sense of personal identity, but was recalled almost at once by 
Ramakrishna, who was himself surprised at the violence of his re- 
action. Little Gangadhar (Akhandananda) was led into the temple 
 
1 66 
 
 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
their own development. He merely nourished them with 
his inner sun, and so increased their energy tenfold. In 
general it was during the last stage of their upward ascent, 
when they had manfully attained the bliss of the stage at 
the top of the slope by their own independent efforts. Then 
the Master often agreed to bestow the final shock of illumin- 
ation. A little thing was sufficient, a word, a look, a touch, 
like the lightning of Grace, which never fell except into 
prepared souls on heights already attained. No new know- 
 
of Kali by the Master, who said to him, " Behold, the living Shiva " 
and Gangadhar saw Him. 
 
But the reader must beware lest he labour under a misappre- 
hension. The Master never tried to impose on the disciples visions 
or thoughts which were not already there ; he sought rather to 
awaken them. To intellectual natures he was the first to advise 
against research for visual realizations. When Baburam (Prema- 
nanda), whom he loved, begged him to procure ecstasy for him, 
the Divine Mother warned Ramakrishna that Baburam was destined 
to have Jnana (knowledge) and not Bhava (emotional absorption in 
God). He asked the man, who was to be one of his greatest intel- 
lectual disciples (Saratchandra-Saradananda), " How would you like 
to realize God ? What visions do you have when you meditate ? " 
Saratchandra replied, " I do not care for visions. I do not imagine 
any particular form of God when I meditate. I imagine Him mani- 
fested in all creatures upon earth. Ramakrishna smiled and said, 
" But that is the last word in spirituality. You cannot attain to it 
at first." Saratchandra replied, " I cannot be content with less. 11 
 
Even in the case of the most sensitive, visual realization was only 
a stage through which they had to pass. Abhedananda, after hav- 
ing seen Gods and Goddesses in meditation, one day saw all the 
forms blending into one luminous image. Ramakrishna told him 
that for the future he would have no more visions ; he had passed 
that stage. And in fact from that day Abhedananda had nothing 
but ideas of the infinite and of immensity, finally reaching the im- 
personal Brahmin. When Sri JJamakrishna heard another per- 
suading Baburam to obtain special powers from the Master, Rama- 
krishna called Baburam to his side and said reproachfully, " What 
more can you ask me for ? Is not all that I have yours ? All 
that I have won in the way of realization is for you. Here is the 
key, open and take everything." 
 
But he added to the Vedantist, Harinath (Turiyananda), If 
you think you can find God better away from me, then go ! My 
one desire is that you should raise yourselves above the misery of 
the world and enjoy divine beatitude." 
 
And so in a thousand ways he used all his influence to direct 
these young souls in their true religious sense, so that they might 
develop their own true and highest individuality. He never dreamt 
 
167 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
ledge was revealed, 40 but everything that they had known 
before, all the store of knowledge that they had slowly 
amassed, became in a flash tangible life and living reality. 
" At that point you realize that all things live, like your 
own self, in God. You become the will-power and the 
conscience of all that is. Your will becomes that of the 
whole universe. . . ." 41 
 
of annexing them. He gave himself to them. He never said to 
them, and never thought, " You ought to give yourselves to me." 
Herein lies one of the main differences between his guidance and 
that of Christ. 
 
(For the above cf. Life of Ramakrishna, pp. 475, 488, 600, 604, 
606, 615, etc.) 
 
I have thought it necessary to emphasize for the Western reader 
this curious aspect of personal action exercised by Ramakrishna 
over those round him, without giving it the importance it obtains in 
the East. I hold the same opinion as Saratchandra (Saradananda) 
in this connection. " We must have more. We cannot be satis- 
fied with less." That which the eyes could see counted for little 
compared to the evidence manifested to the spirit. 
 
40 Disciples who have passed through these experiences and 
several of the most intellectual are still alive attest that there 
was not the slightest suggestion of hypnotic power, which violates 
the will by imposing conditions upon it from an alien conscious- 
ness. It was rather of the nature of a tonic, a stimulant. Under 
its impulsion men obtained a clearer vision of their own ideals. 
The present Abbot of the order, Swami Shivananda, wrote to me : 
 
" Ramakrishna had the power to raise others to the greatest 
heights of consciousness by transmitting to them the energy of his 
own spirituality. He did it either by the power of his thought or 
by his touch. Many of us had the privilege of being taken to 
higher planes of spiritual consciousness according to our capacity. 
It was neither hypnotism, nor a condition of deep sleep. I myself 
had the privilege of attaining this high spiritual consciousness three 
times through his touch and by his will. I still live to bear direct 
witness to his tremendous spiritual power." 
 
Let the learned men of Europe who are preoccupied by the 
problems of mystic psycho-analysis, put themselves in touch with 
these living witnesses while there is yet time ; I myself, I repeat, 
have little curiosity about such phenomena, whose subjective 
reality is not in doubt, and I believe it my duty to describe them ; 
for they are hedged about by all possible guarantees of good faith 
and analytical intelligence. I am more interested in the fact of 
great religious intuition, in that which continues to be rather than 
in that which has been, in that which is or which can be always 
in all beings rather in that which is the privilege of a few. 
 
41 It is to be understood that this means that we espouse the 
will of the universe, and not that we impose our will upon it. 
 
168 
 
 
 
THE MASTER AND HIS CHILDREN 
 
This realization was the last stage, for beyond this tem- 
porary revelation lay the supreme realization, the absolute 
Identity, obtained in the Nirvikalpa Samadhi (the Highest 
Ecstasy). But that was reserved for men who had achieved 
their mission in life ; it was the ultimate and forbidden joy ; 
for from it there is no return except in a few exceptional 
cases like that of Ramakrishna himself. In spite of the 
prayers of his disciples, he was loath to let them taste of it ; 
they had not yet won the right. He knew only too well 
that such " Salt dolls" 42 would no sooner touch the first 
waves of that Ocean than they would be absorbed in it. 
He who is desirous of attaining Identity with Unique Reality 
only receives a return ticket by a miracle. 
 
The disciples therefore had to remain in this world at 
the stage before the final, wherein identification with all 
reality takes place. 43 Properly speaking it is stage of 
illumination, to which we can all aspire and to which we 
have the power to attain by ourselves and to guide others 
to a similar attainment. 
 
And what do we, the free spirits of the West, who have 
realized the unity of living beings through reason or love, 
do that is different from this ? Is it not the constant aim 
of our own efforts, the passion inspiring us, the profound 
faith whereby we live and are carried over the bloody waters 
of hatred between men without soiling so much as the soles 
of our feet ? Is it not the one object of our desire and our 
profound conviction that sooner or later it will come to 
pass the unity of all nations, races and religions ? And 
are we not in this, although ignorant of it, the disciples of 
Ramakrishna ? 
 
41 Cf. the parable already quoted, Note 3, p. 43. 
 
48 " The world is the field of action where man is put to work-- 
just as men come from their country houses to business in Calcutta." 
(Gospel, II, 147.) 
 
 
 
169 
 
 
 
X 
 
NAREN, THE BELOVED DISCIPLE 
 
BUT among the Indian disciples of the Upper Room, 
all of whom, as I shall show, later distinguished them- 
selves by faith and works, there was one exceptional disciple, 
whom Ramakrishna treated in an exceptional way. He 
had chosen him at the very first glance before the young 
man so much as knew him, on account of what he was and 
what he might become a spiritual leader of humanity 
Narendranath Dutt, Vivekananda. 
 
The Paramahamsa with his intuitive genius for souls, for 
whom time was not, and who could discern in the twinkling 
of an eye the whole flood of the future, believed that he had 
seen the great disciple in the womb of the elect before he 
met him in the flesh. 
 
I will give here an account of his beautiful vision. Doubt- 
less I could try to explain it by ordinary methods as well 
as any of our psychologists, but such explanation is im- 
material. We know that a mighty vision creates and 
produces that which it has seen. In a deeper sense the 
prophets of the hereafter have been the real creators of 
what was not yet, but which was trembling on the verge 
of being. The torrent formiijg the remarkable destiny of 
Vivekananda would have been lost in the bowels of the 
earth, if Ramakrishna's glance had not, as with one blow 
of an axe, split the rock barring its way, so that through 
the breach thus made the river of his soul could flow. 
 
" One day I found that my mind was soaring high in 
Samadhi along a luminous path. It soon transcended the 
stellar universe and entered the subtler region of ideas. 
As it ascended higher and higher, I found on both sides of 
the way ideal forms of gods and goddesses. The mind 
then reached the outer limits of that region, where a luminous 
 
170 
NAREN, THE BELOVED DISCIPLE 
 
barrier separated the sphere of relative existence from that 
of the Absolute. Crossing that barrier, the mind entered 
the transcendental realm, where no corporeal being was 
visible. Even the gods dared not peep into that sublime 
realm, and were content to keep their seats far below. But 
the next moment I saw seven venerable sages seated there 
in Samadhi. It occurred to me that these sages must have 
surpassed not only men but even the gods in knowledge 
and holiness, in renunciation and love. Lost in admiration, 
I was reflecting on their greatness, when I saw a portion of 
that undifferentiated luminous region condense into the 
form of a divine child. The child came to one of the sages, 
tenderly clasped his neck with his lovely arms, and addressing 
him in a sweet voice, tried to drag his mind down from the 
state of Samadhi. That magic touch roused the sage from 
the superconscious state, and he fixed his half-open eyes 
upon the wonderful child. His beaming countenance showed 
that the child must have been the treasure of his heart. 
In great joy the strange child spoke to him, ' I am going 
down. You too must go with me/ The sage remained 
mute but his tender look expressed his assent. As he kept 
gazing at the child, he was again immersed in Samadhi. 
I was surprised to find that a fragment of his body and 
mind was descending to earth in the form of a bright light. 
No sooner had I seen Narendra than I recognized him to be 
that sage. 1 ' * 
 
The seer does not say who was the child, but we can guess. 
Indeed he himself avowed to the disciples 2 that it was he. 
Certainly he remained throughout his life the Bambino, 8 
whose lips drank the milk of the Mother, and who only left 
Our Lady's arms for an instant, in order to fulfil his destiny 
the destiny, according to his own definition, of sending 
into the world a man better fitted than himself to guide 
mankind and to take over the command of the army. 
 
His judgment was a sound one. He needed a strong body, 
arms to turn over the earth, legs to journey over it, a body- 
guard of workers and the head to command them, in addition 
to his great heart charged with love for the whole world. 
 
*Life of Ramakrishna, p. 438. Saradanayda. 
 
1 A personification of the type so familiar to students of Italian 
art. 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
That his burning faith made realization spring from the 
soil not only proves his foresight and the strength of his 
desire, but that the soil of Bengal was prepared and feverishly 
awaiting his call. Vivekananda was projected into the 
" century " by the childbirth of Nature herself ; for the 
time of parturition had arrived for that form of spirit. 
 
Ramakrishna is also to be commended for seeing at once 
in this wayward, tormented and storm-tossed adolescent, 
as Narendra then was, the future leader, exactly the Evan- 
gelist he was expecting. 
 
The story of their early meetings deserves to be told in 
its entirety. The reader will then feel the same attraction 
that Naren in spite of himself experienced, and which, in 
spite of himself, united him to the Master who had chosen 
him. 
 
But let us first draw the portrait of this young genius at 
the moment when his meteor entered and was absorbed in 
the orbit of Ramakrishna. 4 
 
He was a member of a great aristocratic Kshatriya family, 
and his whole life showed the stamp of that warrior caste. 
He was born on January 12, 1863, at Calcutta. His mother 
was a highly educated woman of regal majesty, whose heroic 
spirit had been nurtured on the great Hindu epics. 6 His 
father, who led an ostentatious and restless life, showed an 
independence of spirit almost Voltairean in quality, like 
 
4 In this account I am following the great biography, The Life 
of the Swami Vivekananda by his Eastern and Western disciples, 
Advaita Ashrama, Himalayas, 4 vols. 
 
To it I have added some precious details furnished by Sara- 
dananda in his biography of Ramakrishna, and by the noble Ameri- 
can disciple of Vivekananda, Sister Christine, whose unpublished 
memoirs were kindly lent to me. 
 
1 The influence of this woman over her son, Vivekananda, must 
never be forgotten. He was a difficult child to bring up and gave 
her much trouble, but until the day of his death he kept a tender 
regard for her. In America at the end of 1894 ne rendered her 
public homage ; in his lectures in praise of Indian womanhood he 
often spoke of her, extolling her self-mastery, her piety, her high 
character. " It is my Mother/' he said, " who has been the constant 
inspiration of my life and work." 
 
From Sister Christine's unpublished Memoirs, we learn some 
characteristic details of his two parents, which she gleaned in the 
course of private conversations with Vivekananda in America. 
 
From his mother, his proud little mother, he inherited his royal 
 
172 
 
 
 
NAREN, THE BELOVED DISCIPLE 
 
that of a great French seigneur of the eighteenth century, 
and an indifference to caste, due at once to his large senti- 
ment of humanity and to the smiling consciousness of his 
own superiority. But the grandfather, a rich and cultured 
man, had abandoned wife and children, a high position, 
fortune and society at the age of twenty-five to retire into 
" the forest " and become a Sannyasin ; and from that day 
had never been seen ; . . . 
 
His childhood and boyhood were those of a young artist 
prince of the Renaissance. 6 He was gifted with a multi- 
plicity of talents, and cultivated them all. He had a leonine 
beauty coupled to the lithe grace of a fawn. The possessor 
of physical courage and the build of an athlete, he was a 
past master in all physical exercises. He could box, swim, 
row, and had a passion for horses. He was the favourite 
of youth and the arbiter of fashion. He danced the great 
religious dances with consummate art, and had a delightful 
voice, which later was to charm the ear of Ramakrishna. 
He studied vocal and instrumental music for four or five 
years under famous Hindu and Musulman professors. He 
wrote tunes and published a documented Essay on the 
science and philosophy of Indian music. Indeed he was 
everywhere regarded as a musical authority. For him music 
was always the gate of the temple, 7 the vestibule of the 
palace of the Most High. At college he was distinguished 
for his brilliant intellect, embracing with equal zest the 
sciences, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, and Indian 
 
bearing and many of his intellectual faculties, his extraordinary 
memory, and moral purity. 
 
To his father he owed his intelligence, his artistic sense, his 
compassion. This noble India?, who belonged to the generation 
flooded by the tide of Western positivism, had lost his faith. He 
treated it as if it were all superstition. He admired the poetry of 
Hafiz and the Bible as works of art. He said a curious thing^to 
his son, when he showed him the two Christian Testaments. " If 
there is a religion, it would be in this book/' But he did not be- 
lieve in the soul or in a future life. He was generous to the point 
of prodigality, and seemed to be given over to a smiling and worldly 
scepticism. But in reality he suffered deeply from life ; and when 
he heard of the youthful follies of his son, he said, " This world is 
so terrible, let him forget it if he can." 
 
That is to say, of the Italian Renaissance. 
 
7 The temple of the Goddess Sarasvati, the patron of the arts. 
 
173 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
and Western languages. He read the English and Sanskrit 
poets. He devoured the historical works of Green and 
Gibbon. He was fired by the French Revolution and 
Napoleon. From his childhood up he practised, like so 
many Indian children, the habit of meditation. At night 
he used to pore over the Imitation of Jesus Christ and the 
Vedanta. He loved philosophic discussions. It was this 
mania for argument, criticism, " discrimination/' that later 
won for him the name of Vivekananda. He tried to weld 
Hellenic beauty and Indo-Germanic thought into one har- 
monious whole. But to his universalism, which attained the 
standards of Leonardo and Alberti with its spiritual empire 
over life in all forms, was added the crown of a religious 
soul and absolute purity. This beautiful ephebe, to whom 
all the good things of life and its pleasures were offered, 
though free and passionate, imposed upon himself a rigorous 
chastity. Without being tied to any sect, before he had 
adopted any Credo, he had already the feeling, the profound 
reason for which I shall show later, that purity of body 
and soul is a spiritual force, whose fire penetrates into every 
aspect of life, but is extinguished by the slightest defilement. 
Moreover, he was overshadowed by a great destiny, and 
though he was as yet unaware of its direction, he wished 
to be worthy of it and to realize it. 
 
The result of such a multiplicity of gifts and contending 
passions made him live for many years in great turmoil of 
soul before his personality became fixed. Between the ages 
of seventeen and twenty-one (from 1880 to the end of 1884) 
he went through a series of intellectual crises increasing in 
intensity until religious certainty finally put an end to them. 
 
He was first moved by reading Stuart Mill's Essays on 
Religion, which caused his fir*st optimistic surface theism, 
gleaned in fashionable Brahmo Samajist circles, to crumble 
away. The face of Evil in nature appeared to him, and 
he revolted against it. But he was powerless to prevent 
the intrusion of bored disillusion and antique Melancholy 8 
 
A reference to the famous engraving of Albrecht Durer, Melan- 
choly, representing a desponding archangel, sitting in the midst of 
the chaos of science. The sense of melancholy is above the ordinary 
and signifies a soul, saddened and wearied by its vain intellectual 
researches. 
 
174 
 
 
 
NAREN, THE BELOVED DISCIPLE 
 
(in the sense of Albrecht Diirer). In vain he tried to adopt 
the theories of Herbert Spencer, with whom he corresponded. 9 
He asked the older students in his college classes for counsel, 
in particular Brajendra Nath Seal. 10 To him he confided 
his scepticism and begged him to guide him in his search 
for the truth. It was to Seal that he owed his reading of 
Shelley and that he bathed his burning soul in the aerial 
waves of the poet's pantheism. 11 His young mentor then 
wished to enrol him in the service of the God of Reason 
the Parabrahman a conception particularly his own. 
Brajendra's rationalism was of a peculiar kind in that it 
claimed to be an amalgamation of the pure monism of the 
Vedanta, the Hegelian dialect of the Absolute idea, and 
the gospel of the French Revolution : Liberty, Equality, 
Fraternity. He believed that the principle of individualism 
was " the evil " and Universal Reason " the good." It was 
then essential that pure reason should be manifested ; this 
was the great modern problem, and Brajendra thought to 
solve it by Revolution. His revolutionary and imperial 
rationalism appealed to some sides of Narendra's domineer- 
ing nature. But the latter's tumultuous personality was 
not to be confined within such limits. Although his intellect 
 
9 Spencer was astonished, so it is said, by his daring criticisms, 
and admired the precociousness of his philosophic intellect. Accord- 
ing to Saradananda, Naren pursued the study of Western philosophy 
between his first examination in 1881 and that of 1884 correspond- 
ing to our licentiate's degree. He had then read Descartes, Hume, 
Kant, Fichte, Spinoza, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Auguste Comte and 
Darwin. But it seems to me that he can only have read them 
superficially from general treatises and that he did not study their 
actual works. He also followed a course of medicine, studying 
the physiology of the brain an(^ nervous system. " The analytic 
and scientific method of the West had conquered him, and 
he wished to apply it to the study of Hindu religious ideas." 
(Saradananda.) 
 
10 This man of great intellect, at present the Vice-Chancellor of 
the University of Mysore and one of the most solid and erudite 
philosophers in India, has related his reminiscences of the young 
Vivekananda in an article written for the Prabuddha Bharata of 
1907, and reproduced in the Life of the Swami Vivekananda, Vol. I, 
pp. 172-77. Although at college he was in the class above Vive- 
kananda, the latter was a little his senior. 
 
11 He also read Wordsworth, of all English poets the one who 
seems most akin to the poets of the Far East. 
 
175 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
certainly wished to accept (or impose) the sovereignty of 
universal reason and to make the foundation of morality 
an imperious negation of individualism, his life would not 
agree. He was too intoxicated with the beauty of the world 
and its passions. An attempt to deprive him of it was like 
condemning a young beast of prey to vegetarianism. His 
melancholy and anguish redoubled. It was mockery to 
offer him a diet of immanent Reason, a bloodless God. 
Being a real Hindu for whom life is the first attribute, if not 
the very essence of truth, he needed the living revelation, 
the realization of the Absolute, God made man some holy 
Guru, who could say to him, " I have seen Him. I have 
touched Him. I have been Him." Nevertheless, his intel- 
lect, nurtured as it had been in European thought, and the 
critical spirit inherited from his father, revolted against 
this aspiration of his heart and senses, as will be seen in 
his first reactions against Ramakrishna. 
 
He was, like all young Bengal intellectuals of his time, 
drawn by the pure light of Keshab Chunder Sen. It was 
then at its height and Naren envied it ; he could have 
wished to be Keshab. He was naturally in sympathy with 
his New Order, and joined it. His name was enrolled on 
the list of members of the new Brahmo Samaj. 12 The 
Ramakrishna Mission has since maintained that he could 
not have been entirely in accord with the spirit of categorical 
reform held by this Samaj, which ran counter to even the 
most respectable prejudices of orthodox Hinduism. But I 
am inclined to disagree with them. The reckless character 
of young Naren would have delighted in wholesale destruction 
and he was not the man to reproach his new companions 
for iconoclasm. It was only later, and in great part owing 
to Ramakrishna's influence, that he came to conceive of and 
profess respect for even antiquated beliefs and customs, 
provided they were in accordance with long tradition and 
 
11 His name remained on the list a long time after he had be- 
come the Swami Vivekananda, and he told his disciples that he 
had never withdrawn it. When he was asked in later years, " Do 
you attack the Brahmo Samaj ? " he answered, " Not at all." He 
considered this society to be a high form of Hinduism. (Cf. Life 
of the Swami Vivekananda, Vol. I, Chapter 38, devoted to the 
Brahmo Samaj.) 
 
176 
 
 
 
NAREN, THE BELOVED DISCIPLE 
 
deeply assimilated into the substance of the nation. 18 But 
I am convinced that this did not come to pass without a 
struggle ; and it is partly this, which explains his first recoil 
of intellectual mistrust from Ramakrishna. For the time 
being, however, he had joined the movement of young Brah- 
mos in Bengal for the education and unity of the Indian 
masses without distinction of caste, race or religion. Some 
of them attacked orthodox Hinduism even more bitterly 
than did the Christian missionaries ; but it was fatal that 
Naren's free and living intelligence should have quickly 
realized the unintelligent narrowness of such critics, who 
were not free from crossgrained fanaticism, and that his 
spirit no less than his national pride should have been 
wounded by them. He would not subscribe to the abdica- 
tion of Indian wisdom before the badly assimilated know- 
ledge of the West. Nevertheless he continued to attend 
the meeting of the Brahmo Samaj, but in his heart he was 
not at rest. 
 
He next imposed upon himself the life of an ascetic, living 
in a dark, damp room, lying on the ground upon a quilt 
with books everywhere, making tea on the floor, reading 
and meditating day and night. He suffered excruciating 
and stabbing pains in his head, but he did not achieve the 
reconciliation of the conflicting passions of his nature, whose 
struggles lasted even into his troubled sleep. 
 
" From my youth up/' he relates, " every night just as 
I fell asleep two dreams took shape. In one I saw myself 
among the great ones of the earth, the possessor of riches, 
honours, power and glory ; and I felt that the capacity to 
attain all these was in me. But the next instant I saw 
myself renouncing all worldly things, dressed in a simple 
loin-cloth, living on alms, sloping at the foot of a tree ; 
and I thought that I was capable also of living thus, like 
the Rishis of old. Of these two pictures the second took 
the upper hand and I felt that only thus could a man attain 
 
1J In the maturity of his powers he often insisted on this point, 
that his own message was npt a negation but fulfilment of true 
Hindu thought. He was a partisan of radical reforms, but he held 
that they should be carried out by conservative methods. (Ibid.) 
 
These are practically the very words of Keshab : " To preach 
Hindu conservatism in a liberal spirit." (Indian Empire, 1884.) 
 
177 N 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
supreme bliss. . . . And I fell asleep in the foretaste of 
that bliss. . . . And each night it was renewed. . . ," 14 
Such was he at the moment when he went to meet the 
Master, who was to govern the rest of his life. In the great 
city where India and Europe meet, he had made the round 
of the great religious individualities ; 16 but he had returned 
unsatisfied. He sought in vain, tested, rejected. He 
 
wandered. . . . 
 
* * * 
 
He was eighteen and preparing for his first University 
Examination. In November, 1880, in the house of a friend, 
Surendranath Mitra, a rich publican converted to the Indian 
Christ, during a small festivity at which Naren had sung a 
beautiful religious hymn, the "falcon's eyes" of Rama- 
krishna for the first time pierced to the depths of his 
unsatisfied soul, and fixed his choice upon it. 16 He asked 
Naren to come to see him at Dakshineswar. 
 
The young man arrived with a band of thoughtless and 
frivolous friends. He came in and sat down, heedless of 
his surroundings, without seeming to see or hear anything, 
wrapt in his own thoughts. Ramakrishna, who was watch- 
ing him, asked him to sing. Naren obe3'ed, and his song 
had such a pathetic tone that the Master, like Naren, a 
passionate lover of music, passed into an ecstasy. Here I 
will leave Naren to speak for himself : 
 
" After I had sung he suddenly got up, and taking me 
by the hand, led me on to the north verandah, and closed 
the door behind us. We were alone. Nobody could see 
us. ... To my great surprise he began to weep for joy. 
He held me by the hand and addressed me very tenderly, 
as if I were somebody he had known familiarly for a long 
time. He said, ' Ah ! You Lave come so late. Why have 
you been so unkind as to make me wait so long ? My ears 
 
14 Extracts from the last volume of the Biography of Rama- 
krishna (Divya Bhava) by Saradananda, Chapter III. 
 
lf It is said that his last attempt had been with Devendranath 
Tagore, who recognized his great gifts. 
 
19 Ramakrishna said later : "I saw no attention to the body, no 
vanity, no attachment to outward things in him. And in his eyes : 
... It seemed that some power possessed the interior of hia soul. 
. . . And I thought, ' How is it possible that such a man can live 
in Calcutta ?'..." 
 
J 7 8 
 
 
 
NAREN, THE BELOVED DISCIPLE 
 
are tired df hearing the futile words of other men. Oh ! 
how I have longed to pour out my spirit into the breast of 
somebody fitted to receive my inner experiences 1 . . .' He 
continued thus sobbing the while. Then standing before 
me with his hands together he said, ' Lord, I know that 
you are the ancient sage Nara, the incarnation of Narajana, 17 
reborn on the earth to take away the misery of humanity/ 18 
I was amazed. ' What have I come to see ? ' I thought. 
' He ought to be put in a strait jacket ! Why, I am the 
son of Viswanath Dutt. How dare he speak thus to me. . 
But I remained outwardly unmoved and let him talk. He 
took my hand again and said, ' Promise me that you will 
come to see me again alone, and soon !'..." 
 
Naren promised in order to free himself from his strange 
host, but he vowed within himself never to return. They went 
back to the common drawing-room, where they found the 
others. Naren sat down apart and watched the personage. 
He could not find anything strange in his ways or in his 
words ; nothing but an inner logic, which he felt was the 
fruit of a profound life of absolute renunciation and a 
striking sincerity. He heard him say (and these words were 
an answer to his own nocturnal strivings) : 
 
" God can be realized. One can see Him and speak to 
Him as I speak to and see you. But who takes the trouble 
to do so ? People will shed tears for a wife, children or 
possessions. But who weeps for the love of God ? Yet if 
a man weep sincerely for Him, He will manifest Himself to 
him." " 
 
17 A certain aspect of Brahman, the cosmic Man, the great 
Hypostasis. (Cf. Paul Masson-Oursel, op. cit., p. 105 et passim.) 
 
1 So in the first words of his delirium he settled for Vivekananda 
the duty of social service, to which he was to devote his life, and 
which distinguishes him from all the other " seers " of India. 
 
1 Another account given by Vivekananda in his Lecture, My 
Master (cf. also Life of the Swami Vivekananda, Vol. I, p. 212) says 
that it was he himself who directly addressed Ramakrishna and 
asked him the eternal question, that he had been taking feverishly 
round from sage to sage : " Sir, have you seen God ? " and that 
Ramakrishna replied, " Yes, my son. I have seen God. I do see 
Him, just as I see you before me. Only I see the Lord in a much 
more intense sense, and I can show Him to you." 
 
It is probable that this dialogue took place at a later date, after 
Vivekananda had become familiar with Ramakrishna. 
 
179 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
And to the speaker himself it was obvious that these were 
no idle words, but that he had proved their truth. Naren 
could not reconcile the picture before his eyes of this simple 
and serene sage with the amazing scene he had just witnessed. 
He said to himself, " He is a monomaniac, but he is not with- 
out greatness. He may be mad, but he is worthy of respect." 
He left Dakshineswar in much confusion of thought, and if 
he had been asked at that moment what were to be his 
relations with Ramakrishna, he would doubtless have replied 
that they would remain as they were. 
 
But the strange vision " worked " upon him. 
 
A month later he returned on foot to Dakshineswar. 
 
" I found him alone sitting on his small bed. He was 
glad to see me, and called me affectionately to sit near him 
on one side of the bed. But a moment later I saw him 
convulsed with some emotion. His eyes were fixed upon 
me, he muttered under his breath, and drew slowly nearer. 
I thought he was going to make some eccentric remark as 
on the previous occasion. But before I could stop him, he 
had placed his right foot on my body. The contact was 
terrible. With my eyes open I saw the walls and everything 
in the room whirling and vanishing into nothingness. . . . 
The whole universe and my own individuality were at the 
same time almost lost in a nameless void, which swallowed 
up everything that is. I was terrified, and believed I was 
face to face with death. I could not stop myself from 
crying out, ' What are you doing ? I have parents at 
home. . . .' Then he began to laugh, and passing his hand 
over my breast, he said ' All is well. Let us leave it at 
that for the moment ! It will come, all in good time.' He 
had no sooner said these wordcS than the strange phenomena 
disappeared. I came to myself again, and everything, both 
outside and in, was as before." 
 
I have written down this astonishing account without 
indulging in futile comment. Whatever the Western reader 
may think, he cannot help being struck by the power of 
hallucination in these Indian souls, recalling that of Shakes- 
peare's passionate visionaries. It may, however, be noted 
in passing that the visionary in this case was anything but 
a weak, credulous and uncritical spirit. He revolted against 
his own vision. His strong personality, scenting danger, 
 
180 
 
 
 
NAREN, THE BELOVED DISCIPLE 
 
was violently antipathetic to all hypnotic action ; and he 
asked himself at first if he had not been the victim of some 
kind of mesmerism. But he had no symptoms of it. Still 
trembling from the tornado that had swept over him, he 
remained on his guard. But after this one great shock the 
rest of the visit was quite normal. Ramakrishna treated 
his visitor with simple and familiar kindness as if nothing 
had happened. 
 
At his third visit, probably a week later, Naren was on 
the defensive with all his critical faculties on the alert. Sri 
Ramakrishna that day took him to an adjacent garden. 
After strolling for some time they took their seats in the 
parlour. Soon the Master fell into a trance and as Narendra 
watched, he was suddenly touched by him. Narendra 
immediately lost all outward consciousness. When he came 
to himself after a while, he saw Ramakrishna looking at 
him, and stroking his chest. 
 
In after days the Master told his disciples : 
 
" I asked him several questions while he was in that state. 
I asked him about his antecedents and whereabouts, his 
mission in this world and the duration of his mortal life. 
He dived deep into himself and gave fitting answers to my 
questions. They only confirmed what I had seen and inferred 
about him. These things shall be a secret, but I came to 
know that he was a sage who had attained perfection, a past 
master in meditation, and that the day he learned his real 
nature, he would give up the body by an act of will. . . ." 20 
 
But at the time Ramakrishna told him nothing of all this, 
although he treated him in the light of his special knowledge, 
and Naren had a privileged place among the disciples. 
 
But Naren had not yet accepted the title of disciple. He 
did not want to be the disciple of anyone. He was struck by 
the incomprehensible power of Ramakrishna. It attracted 
him, as a magnet attracts iron, but he himself was made of 
stern metal. His reason would not submit to domination. 
If in his recent relations with the rationalist Brajendra Seal 
it had been his heart that strove against his intellect, 
now his intellect mistrusted his heart. He was resolved to 
maintain his independence, and to accept nothing from the 
Master except what could be rigorously controlled by his 
10 Life of Sri Ramakrishna, pp. 439 et seq. 
181 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
own reason. The uncritical faith of the others roused his 
contempt. 
 
No stranger relations can be imagined than those now 
established between the young man and the old Guru. 21 
Naren detested all forms of sentimental piety, such as tears 
or anything that savoured of the effeminate. Naren 
questioned everything. He never allowed his reason to 
abdicate for a single instant. He alone weighed all Rama- 
krishna's words, he alone doubted. Far from being shocked, 
Ramakrishna loved him the better for it. Before meeting 
Naren he had been heard to pray, 
 
" O Mother, send me someone to doubt my ' realizations.' " 
 
The Mother granted his prayer. Naren denied the Hindu 
gods, but at the same time he rejected Advaitism, which he 
termed atheism. 22 He openly mocked the injunctions of 
the Hindu Scriptures. He said to Ramakrishna, 
 
" Even if millions of men called you God, if I had not 
proved it for myself, I would never do so/' 
 
Ramakrishna laughingly approved, and said to his disciples, 
 
" Do not accept anything because I say so. Test every- 
thing for yourselves." 
 
The keen criticism of Naren, and his passionate arguments 
filled him with joy. He had a profound respect for his 
brilliant intellectual sincerity with its tireless quest for the 
truth ; he regarded it as a manifestation of Shivaic power, 
which would finally overcome all illusion. He said, 
 
" Look, look ; what power of penetration ! He is a 
raging fire consuming all impurities. Maha-maya, 23 Herself 
cannot come nearer to him than ten feet ! She is held back 
by the glory She has imparted to him." 
 
And Naren's knowledge called him such intense joy that 
it sometimes melted into ecstasy. 
 
But at other times the old Master was hurt by his sharp 
criticism, delivered as it was without any consideration for 
others. Naren said to his face, 
 
11 Naren lived for five years with Ramakrishna, at the same 
time keeping a home of his own at Calcutta. He went to Dak- 
shineswar once or twice a week, and sometimes spent four or five 
days on end with the Master. If he stayed away for a week, Rama- 
krishna sent for him. 
 
11 This was the attitude of the Brahmo Samaj. 
 
" That is to say, Maya the great the Great Illusion the Mother. 
 
182 
 
 
 
NAREN, THE BELOVED DISCIPLE 
 
" How do you know that your realizations are not the 
creations of your sick brain, mere hallucinations ? " 
 
And Ramakrishna in his trouble would go away, and 
humbly seek comfort of the Mother, who consoled him with 
the words, 
 
" Patience ! Soon Naren's eyes will be opened." 
 
Sometimes when the everlasting discussions between Naren 
and the disciples wearied him, 24 he would pray, 
 
" O Mother, give Naren a little of Your Illusion ! " so 
that the fever of his intellect might be somewhat assuaged, 
and his heart might touch God. 
 
But the tortured spirit of Vivekananda cried out, 
 
" I do not desire God. I desire peace that is to say, 
absolute truth, absolute knowledge, absolute infinitude." 
 
He did not see that such a wish overstepped the bounds 
of reason and showed the imperious unreasonableness of his 
heart. It was impossible to satisfy his mind with the proof 
of God. Indian fashion, he maintained : 
 
" If God is real, it is possible to realize Him." 
 
But he gradually discovered that the man of ecstasy, 
whom he had at first believed to be swayed entirely by the 
promptings of his heart, was infinitely more master than 
he was himself in the realm of the intellect. Later he was 
to say of Ramakrishna, 
 
" Outwardly he was all Bhakta, 26 but inwardly all 
Jnanin. . . , 26 I am the exact opposite." 
 
But before he came to make such a statement, and before 
he had yielded of his own free will his proud independence 
into the Master's hands, he both sought him and fled from 
him ; and between the two there was a reciprocal game of 
passionate attraction and secret struggle. The brutal frank- 
ness of Naren, his lack of consideration for all things that 
he mistrusted, the implacable war he declared against all 
charlatanism, and his proud indifference to the opinion of 
 
14 He said of these discussions, " Water poured into an empty 
vessel makes a bubbling noise, but when the vessel is full, no sound 
is heard. The man who has not found God is full of vain disputa- 
tion about the existence and attitude of Godhead. But he who has 
seen Him, enjoys the Divine bliss in silence. 1 ' 
 
16 Those who believe through love. 
 
Those who know through the intellect. 
 
183 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
others, drew down upon him enmity and slander, which he 
was too proud to heed. 27 
 
Ramakrishna never allowed them to be said in his 
presence ; for he was sure of Naren. He said that the 
young man was of the purest gold and that no taint of this 
world could sully him. 28 His only fear was lest so admirable 
an intellect might lose its way, and the multiplicity of 
powers striving within him might be put to a bad use, such 
as the founding of a new sect or of a new party, instead of 
being consecrated to the work of union and unity. He had 
a passionate affection for Naren, but his anxious or tender 
manifestations of it, if Naren stayed away for any length 
of time, both embarrassed and irritated the latter. Rama- 
krishna himself was ashamed of them, but he could not help 
himself. He infuriated Naren by his excessive praise, as 
when he publicly placed the recognized fame of Keshab 
below the problematical fame of this young man, who had 
as yet accomplished nothing. He went to look for him in 
the streets of Calcutta, and even in the temple of the Sad- 
haran Brahmo Samaj, 29 where his unexpected entry during 
 
17 Saradananda, who was later one of his friends and most devoted 
followers, and who has written the best account of his relations with 
Ramakrishna, admits that he was himself ill-disposed towards Naren, 
when he met hitn for the first time at the house of a mutual friend. 
Naren came in, well dressed and well groomed, with a disdainful 
air ; he sat down humming a Hindu song to himself, and began 
to smoke without appearing to care for any of the others present. 
But he took part in the discussion that followed about contemporary 
literature, and suddenly revealed the greatness of his aesthetic and 
moral sense, as well as his predilection for Ramakrishna, the only 
man, he said, whom he had found realizing his inner ideal in this 
life without any compromise. (f. the chapter, Vivekananda and 
Ramakrishna in the last volume of the great Biography of Rama- 
krishna by Saradananda : Divya Bhava.) 
 
11 Far from shaking Naren's faith in himself, he encouraged it. 
He gave him privileges over the other disciples ; for instance, he 
allowed him to touch all kinds of impure food, saying that for such 
as he such matters were immaterial. 
 
11 The branch of the Brahmo Samaj that had broken away from 
Keshab. It was the most uncompromising from the national Hindu 
point of view ; and it is noteworthy that Naren was then a mem- 
ber of it. Ramakrishna had unwittingly many enemies among its 
members, who bore him a grudge for the influence he exercised over 
Keshab. 
 
184 
 
 
 
NAREN, THE BELOVED DISCIPLE 
 
a service provoked a scandal and roused much scornful 
criticism. Naren, mortified and touched at the same time, 
spoke harshly to him in order to rid himself of this pursuit. 
He told him that no man ought to allow himself to be 
infatuated by another, that if Ramakrishna loved him too 
much he would forfeit his own spiritual greatness and sink 
to his level. The simple and pure Ramakrishna listened 
to him fearfully, and then went to ask the Mother's advice. 
But he returned comforted. 
 
" Ah, wretch ! " he said to Naren, " I will not listen to 
you. The Mother has told me that I love you because in 
you I see the Lord. If the day comes when I can no longer 
see Him, I shall not be able to bear the sight of you." 
 
Soon their parts were reversed. A time came when 
Naren's presence was received by Ramakrishna with com- 
plete indifference. He did not appear to notice him but 
occupied himself with the others. This went on for several 
weeks. Nevertheless Naren always came patiently back. 
Ramakrishna asked him why, since he no longer spoke to 
him, and Naren replied, 
 
" It is not just your words that attract me. I love you 
and need to see you." 
 
The Master's spirit gradually took possession of the rebel 
disciple. In vain the latter ridiculed Ramakrishna' s beliefs, 
especially the two extremes : the cult of images, and faith 
in an Absolute Unity the fascination of God worked 
slowly. 
 
" Why do you come here, if you do not want to acknow- 
ledge my Mother ? " Ramakrishna asked him. 
 
" Must I acknowledge Her, if I come ? " replied Naren. 
 
" Well," said the Master, J" several days hence you will 
not only accept Her, but you will weep at the mention of 
Her name." 80 
 
80 Brajendra Seal has confessed the stupefaction caused by the 
sight of Narendra the iconoclast, jthe hater of superstitions and idols, 
worshipping before Kali and Her priest. He condemned him merci- 
lessly, until the day when curiosity urged him to visit Dakshine- 
swar. He spent an afternoon there and came away in a state of 
moral and physical astonishment. All his preconceived ideas were 
wavering. Without understanding it, he was subjugated by the 
atmosphere which seemed to emanate from the person of Rama- 
krishna. It may be interesting to trace the unpremeditated reaction 
 
185 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
It was the same when Ramakrishna wanted to open the 
doors of Advaitist Vedantism, of identity with the Absolute, 
to Naren. Naren rejected the idea as blasphemy and mad- 
ness. He did not let any chance go by of ridiculing it ; 
and one day he and one of the other disciples jeered and 
gave vent to side-splitting laughter at its extravagance. 
" This jug," they said, " is God . . . and these flies are 
God. . . ." From the adjoining room Ramakrishna heard 
the laughter of the great children. He came in quietly in 
a semi-conscious state, and touched Naren. 81 Again a 
 
of a great intellectual and rationalist thinker, a man high in his 
University, who to this day has kept his independent judgment. 
 
" I watched with intense interest the transformation that went 
on under my eyes. The attitude of a young and rampant Vedantist 
cum Hegelian cum Revolutionary like myself towards the 
cult of religious ecstasy and Kali- Worship may be easily imagined ; 
and the spectacle of a born iconoclast and freethinker like Vive- 
kananda, a creative and dominating intelligence, a tamer of souls, 
himself caught in the meshes of what appeared to me an uncouth, 
supernatural mysticism, was a riddle which my philosophy of the 
Pure Reason could scarcely read at the time. . . . 
 
" (For pathological curiosity) at last I went ... to Dakshine- 
swar, to see and hear Vivekananda's Master, and spent the greater 
part of a long summer day in the shady and peaceful solitudes of 
the Temple garden, returning as the sun set amidst the whirl and 
rush and roar and the awful gloom of a blinding thunderstorm, with 
a sense of bewilderment as well moral as physical, and a lurking 
perception of the truth that the law orders the apparently irregular 
and grotesque, that sense even in its errors is only incipient Reason 
and that faith in a saving Power db extra is but the dim reflex of 
an original act of self-determination. And a significant confirma- 
tion of all this came in the subsequent life-history of Vivekananda, 
who, after he had found the firm assurance he sought in the saving 
Grace and Power of his Master, went about preaching and teach- 
ing the creed of the Universal Mao, and the absolute and inalienable 
sovereignty of the Self." 
 
(Article of Brajendranath Seal, published in Prabuddha Bharata, 
1907, and reproduced in the Life of the Swami Vivekananda, I, 177.) 
 
11 For scientific men, who study psycho-physiological problems, 
it is noteworthy that these " touches," which provoked in the sub- 
jects concerned immediate experience of changed conditions, were 
nearly always (if not always) produced when Ramakrishna was in 
a state of semi-consciousness or of complete hypnosis. There was 
therefore nothing in them analogous to calculated action of the 
will independent of the energies governed by it. It might almost 
be described as a forced descent of another into the abyss he had 
first descended himself. 
 
186 
 
 
 
NAREN, THE BELOVED DISCIPLE 
 
spiritual tornado swept him. All at once everything was 
changed in Naren's eyes. He saw with amazement that 
nothing existed but God. He went back to his house. All 
that he saw, touched, ate, was God. ... He stopped 
doing anything, intoxicated by Universal Force. His 
parents became anxious and thought he was ill. He 
remained in this condition for some days. Then the dream 
vanished. But its remembrance remained with Naren as 
a foretaste of the Advaitis state, and he never afterwards 
allowed himself to deny its existence. 
 
He then passed through a series of mystic storms. He 
repeated " Shiva . . . Shiva/' like a madman. Rama- 
krishna looked on with compassionate understanding. 
 
" Yes, I remained for twelve years in that condition." 
 
But his leonine nature, which leapt in great bounds from 
ironic denial to illumination, would never have undergone 
a lasting transformation, if the citadel had not been mined 
from within and not from without. The rough scourge of 
sorrow came suddenly to whip him out of his comfortable 
doubt, and the luxury of intellectualism on which he prided 
himself, and brought him face to face with the tragic problem 
of evil and existence. 
 
At the beginning of 1884 his careless and prodigal father 
died, suddenly carried off by a heart attack, and the family 
found itself faced with ruin. There were six or seven 
mouths to feed, and a swarm of creditors. From that day 
onwards Naren tasted misery, knew the vain search for 
employment and the denial of friends. He has told his 
distress in pages that are among the most poignant of 
confessions. 82 
 
" I almost died of hunger. Barefoot I wandered from 
office to office, repulsed on all sides. I gained experience 
of human sympathy. This was my first contact with the 
realities of life. I discovered that she had no room for the 
weak, the poor, the deserted. Those who several days 
before would have been proud to help me, turned away 
their faces, although they possessed the means to do so. 
The world seemed to me to be the creation of a devil. One 
burning day, when I could hardly stand upon my feet, I 
 
11 This account is taken from the Life of Sri Ramakrishna, pp. 
 
428 et seq. 
 
187 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
sat down in the shade of a monument. Several friends 
were there, and one began to sing a hymn about the abundant 
grace of God. It was like a blow aimed deliberately at 
my head. I thought of the pitiable condition of my mother 
and brothers, and cried, ' Stop singing that song 1 Such 
fantasies may sound pleasantly in the ears of those who are 
born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and whose parents 
are not at home dying of hunger. Oh yes, there was a 
time when I too thought like that ! But now that I am 
faced with all the cruelty of life, it rings in my ears like 
deadly mockery/ My friend was hurt. He could not make 
allowance for my terrible distress. More than once, when 
I saw that there was not enough food to go round at home, 
I went out, telling my mother that I was invited elsewhere, 
and I fasted. My rich friends sometimes asked me to go 
to their houses to sing, but practically not a single one of 
them showed any curiosity about my misfortunes ; and I 
kept them to myself. . . ." 
 
Throughout this period he continued to pray to God 
every morning. One day his mother heard him, and, her 
piety severely shaken by too great misfortune, said to 
him, 
 
" Fool, be quiet ! You have made yourself hoarse with 
praying to God from your childhood up. And what has 
He done for you ? . . ." 
 
Then he in his turn was filled with anger against God. 
Why did He not answer his anguished appeals ? Why did 
He allow so much suffering on the earth ? And the bitter 
words of the Pandit Vidyasagar came into his mind : 
 
" If God is good and gracious, why then do millions of 
people die for want of a few morsels of food ? " 8S 
 
" The Pandit Vidyasagar (Iswara Chandra, 1820-91) was a social 
reformer, the director of the Sanskrit College at Calcutta, and knew 
Ramakrishna. His memory is held in veneration less for his great 
learning than for his love of humanity. He was the impotent wit- 
ness of the famine in 1864 with its more than 100,000 victims, which 
made him reject God, and devote himself wholly to the service of 
man. Vivekananda in 1898 spoke of him with hushed respect and 
without a word of blame during a journey in Kashmir, as was noted 
down by Sister Nivedita in her account of conversations with the 
Swami. (Notes of some Wanderings with the Swami Vivehananda, 
Calcutta, Udbodhan Office, Calcutta.) 
 
188 
 
 
 
NAREN, THE BELOVED DISCIPLE 
 
A furious revolt arose to heaven. He declared war upon 
God. 
 
He had never been able to conceal his thoughts and now 
he spoke openly against God. He proved that He was either 
non-existent or evil. His reputation as an atheist became 
established, and as is the practice of devout people, unmen- 
tionable motives were adduced for his unbelief, and his 
habits were maligned. Such dishonesty hardened him, and 
he took a sombre delight in boasting publicly that in such 
a depraved world a victim, as he was, of the persecutions 
of fortune had every right to seek momentary respite in 
whatever pleasure he might find ; and that if he, Narendra, 
decided that such means were efficacious, he should certainly 
not shrink from using them for fear of anybody. To some 
of Ramakrishna's disciples who offered their pious remon- 
strances, he replied that only a coward believed in God 
through fear. And he drove them away. At the same time 
the idea that Ramakrishna might blame him like the rest 
troubled him. Then his pride revolted. " What does it 
matter ? If a man's reputation rests on such slender 
foundations, I do not care. I spurn it under foot ; . . ." 
 
All judged him lost except Ramakrishna in his retreat at 
Dakshineswar, and he kept his confidence in Naren ; 84 but 
he was waiting for the psychological moment. He knew 
that Naren's salvation could only come from him. 
 
The summer passed. Naren continued his harassing 
search for a means of livelihood. One evening when he 
had eaten nothing, he sank down, exhausted and wet 
through, by the side of the road in front of a house. The 
delirium of fever raged in his prostrate body. Suddenly it 
seemed as if the folds enveloping his soul were rent asunder, 
and there was light. 86 All nis past doubts were auto- 
matically solved. He could say truly : 
 
" I see, I know, I believe, I am undeceived. ..." 
 
* 4 Afterwards Vivekananda said, " Ramakrishna was the only one 
who had unswerving faith in me. Even my mother and my brothers 
were not capable of it. His unshakable confidence joined me to 
him for ever. He alone knew the meaning of love." 
 
" Revelation caine always by the same mechanical process at 
the exact moment when the limit of vitality had been reached, and 
the last reserves of the will to struggle exhausted. 
 
189 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
His mind and body were at rest. He went in and spent 
the night in meditation. In the morning his mind was 
made up. He had decided to renounce the world as his 
grandfather had done, and he fixed a day when this definite 
vow was to be accomplished. 
 
Now on that very day Ramakrishna, all unknowing, came 
to Calcutta, and begged Naren to come back with him for 
the night to Dakshineswar. Naren tried in vain to escape ; 
but he was obliged to follow the Master. That night shut 
up in his room with him, Ramakrishna began to sing, and 
his beautiful chant brought tears to the eyes of the young 
disciple ; for he realized that the Master had divined his 
purpose. Ramakrishna said to him, 
 
" I know that you cannot remain in the world. But for 
my sake, stay in it as long as I live/' 
 
Naren went back home. He had found some work in a 
translation office and in a solicitor's office, but he had no 
permanent employment, so that the fate of his family was 
never assured from one day to the next. He asked Rama- 
krishna to pray for him and his. 
 
" My child," said Ramakrishna, " I cannot offer up those 
prayers. Why do you not do so yourself ? " 
 
Naren went into the temple of the Mother. He was in 
a state of exalted fervour ; a flood of love and faith coursed 
through him. But when he returned and Ramakrishna 
asked if he had prayed, Naren realized that he had forgotten 
to ask for the alleviation of his misery. Ramakrishna told 
him to go back. He returned a second time and a third 
time. No sooner did he enter the temple than the purpose 
of his prayers faded before his eyes. At the third attempt 
indeed he remembered what he had come to ask, but he 
was overcome with shame. " What pitiful interests they 
were, for which to importune the Mother " ; He prayed 
instead, 
 
" Mother, I need nothing save to know and to believe." 
 
From that day a new life began for him. He knew and 
believed, and his faith, born, like that of Goethe's old 
harpist, 16 in misery, never forgot the taste of bread soaked 
in tears, nor his suffering brethren who had shared the 
 
" An allusion to some of Goethe's most beautiful Lieder in Wil- 
helxn Meister. 
 
190 
 
 
 
NAREN, THE BELOVED DISCIPLE 
 
crumbs. One sublime cry proclaimed his faith to the 
world : 
 
" The only God in whom I believe, is the sum total of 
all souls, and above all I believe in my God the wicked, 
my God the miserable, my God the poor of all races. ..." 
 
The Galilean had conquered. 87 The tender Master of 
Bengal had broken the resistance of his bride. Rama- 
krishna in future had no more submissive son than the 
great Kshatriya, who was born to command. So complete 
did their union become, that at times they seemed to be 
identified with each other. It was necessary to exercise a 
moderating influence over this transported soul, that did 
not know what it meant to give by halves. Ramakrishna 
knew the dangers it ran. Its rough and tumultuous course 
leapt beyond the bounds of reason from knowledge to love, 
from the absolute need for meditation to the absolute need 
for action. It yearned to embrace everything at once. 
During the last days of Ramakrishna's life we shall often 
see Naren urging the Master to allow him the highest super- 
conscious revelation, the great ecstasy, from which there is 
no return, the Nirvikalpa Samadhi ; but Ramakrishna 
emphatically refused him. 
 
One day, Swami Shivananda told me, he was present in 
the garden of Cossipore, near Calcutta, when Naren really 
attained this state. " Seeing him unconscious, his body as 
cold as that of a corpse, we ran in great agitation to the 
Master and told him what had happened. The Master 
showed no anxiety ; he merely smiled and said, ' Very 
well/ and then relapsed into silence. Naren returned to 
outward consciousness and came to the Master. The 
Master said to him, ' Well, now do you understand ? This 
(the highest realization) will* henceforward remain under 
lock and key. You have the Mother's work to do. When 
it is finished, She will undo the lock/ Naren replied, 
' Master, I was happy in Samadhi. In my infinite joy I 
had forgotten the world. I beseech you to let me remain 
in that state ' ; ' For shame/ cried the Master. ' How can 
you ask such things ? I thought you were a vast receptacle 
of life, and here you wish to stay absorbed in personal joy 
 
87 The cry of the Emperor Julian as he was dying, after having 
fought in vain against Christ. 
 
IQI 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
like an ordinary man ; . . . This realization will become 
so natural to you, thanks to the Mother, that in your normal 
state you will realize the Unique Divinity in all beings ; 
you will do great things in the world ; you will bring spiritual 
consciousness to men, and assuage the misery of the humble 
and the poor." 
 
He had discerned the part for which Vivekananda was 
cast, and against his will he forced him to play it. 
 
" Ordinary souls/' he said, " fear to assume the respon- 
sibility of instructing the world. A worthless piece of wood 
can only just manage to float, and if a bird settles on it 
immediately it sinks. But Naren is different. He is like 
the great tree trunks, bearing men and beasts upon the 
bosom of the Ganges." 88 
 
He had marked on the giant's forehead the sign of St. 
Christopher the carrier of men. 
 
18 Gospel of Ramakrishna, II, 42. 
 
 
 
192 
 
 
 
XI 
 
THE SWAN SONG 
 
FROM 1881 onwards Ramakrishna lived at Dakshineswar 
surrounded by disciples, who loved him as a father, 
lulled by the sweet murmur of the Ganges. The eternal 
song of the river, turning and flowing northwards with the 
incoming tide at noon, was the undercurrent of his beautiful 
companionship. And it mingled at dawn and sunset with 
the chime of bells, the ringing of conches, the melody of 
the flute (rasunchauki), the clashing of cymbals and the 
temple hymns, that punctuated the days of -the gods and 
goddesses. 1 The intoxicating perfume of the sacred garden 
was borne like incense on the breeze. Between the columns 
of the semicircular verandah with its sheltering awning, 
 
1 The book containing the conversations (The Gospel of Sri 
Ramakrishna) recalls at every turn the setting and the atmosphere. 
 
Before daybreak the bells softly announced the service of matins. 
The lights were kindled. In the hall of music the morning hymns 
were played by flutes accompanied by drums and cymbals. The 
east was not yet red before flowers had already been gathered in 
the garden as an offering to the Gods. The disciples, who had 
spent the night with the Master, meditated as they sat near the 
edge of his bed. Ramakrishna got up and walked about naked, 
singing in his sweet voice ; he tenderly communed with the Mother. 
Then all the instruments played their symphony in concert. The 
disciples performed their ablution! ; then returned to find the Master 
on the verandah ; and the conversations continued overlooking the 
Ganges. 
 
At noon the bells announced the end of worship in the temples 
of Kali and Vishnu and the twelve temples of Shiva. The sun 
burned down. The breeze blew from the south, the tide rose. 
After a meal the Master took a short rest and then the conversa- 
tions began again. 
 
At night the temple lamplighter kindled the lamps. One lamp 
burned in a corner of Ramakrishna's room where he sat absorbed. 
The music of conches and the temple bells announced the evening 
service. Under a full moon the conversations continued. 
 
193 O 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
sails, multicoloured like a swarm of butterflies, could be 
seen passing along the river, the image of Eternity. 
 
But the precincts of the sanctuary were throbbing with 
the ceaseless waves of a different human river pilgrims, 
worshippers, pandits, 2 religious and curious persons of all 
sorts and conditions from the great neighbouring city or 
other parts of India crowding to see and overwhelm with 
questions the mysterious man, who yet did not consider 
himself any way remarkable. He always answered them 
in his charming patois with unwearied patience and that 
air of familiar good grace which, without losing contact 
with the deep realities, allowed nothing to go unobserved 
in the scenes and the everyday people passing before him. 
He could both play the child and judge as the sage. This 
perfect, laughing, loving, penetrating spontaneity, to which 
nothing human was alien, was the chief secret of his charm. 
In truth such a hermit was very different from those of 
our Christian world I If he sought out and absorbed 
sorrow, it disappeared with him ; nothing morose or austere 
could grow in his soil. The great purifier of men who could 
free the soul from its swaddling clothes and wash away all 
stain, making a saint of a Girish by his indulgent smile and 
his piercing and serene glance, would not admit into the 
air of the beautiful garden of Dakshineswar, redolent of 
the scent of roses and jasmine, the morbid idea of shameful 
sin veiling its nakedness by an eternal preoccupation with 
itself. He said : 
 
" Certain Christians and Brahmos see in a sense of sin 
the sum total of religion. Their ideal of a devout man is 
one who prays, ' O Lord, I am a sinner ! 8 Deign to pardon 
my sins 1 . . / They forget that a sense of sin is a sign 
 
1 It was at this time (1882) that Ramakrishna went to visit the 
Pandit Vidyasagar. Their conversations have been recorded. 
 
1 What would he have said if he had known the Oratorian of 
the seventeenth century, Francis de Clugny (1637-94), whom the 
Abbe Brmond has revived for us. He revels in a state of sin, 
and has no other purpose in life than to develop his " Mystic of 
Sinners " in three books reeking of sin, yet written in perfect inno- 
cence, (i. The Devotion of Sinners by a Sinner. 2. The Manual 
of Sinners by a Sinner. 3. Concerning the Prayers of Sinners by 
a Sinner.) 
 
Cf. Henri Br6mond : La MStaphysique des saints, I, 279 et seq* 
 
194 
 
 
 
THE SWAN SONG 
 
of the first and the lowest step of spiritual development. 
They do not take the force of habit into consideration. If 
you say, ' I am a sinner/ eternally, you will remain a sinner 
to all eternity. . . . You ought rather to repeat, ' I am 
not bound, I am not bound. . . . Who can bind me ? I 
am the son of God, the King of Kings. . . / Make your 
will work and you will be free ! The idiot who repeats 
without stopping, ' I am a slave, 1 ends by really becoming 
a slave. The miserable man, who repeats tirelessly, ' I am 
a sinner/ really becomes a sinner. But that man is free 
who says, ' I am free from the bondage of the world. I 
am free. Is not the Lord our Father ? . . / Bondage is 
of the mind, but freedom is also of the mind. . . ." 4 
 
He let the wind of his joy and freedom blow on all around 
him. And languid souls, oppressed by the weight of the 
tropical sky, unfolded again their faded leaves. He com- 
forted the weariest with the words, " The rains will come. 
Patience ! You will become green again/' 
 
It was the home of freed souls those who were and 
those who would be time does not count in India. The 
Sunday receptions often partook of the nature of little 
festivals, Sankirtans, and on ordinary days his interviews 
with his disciples never took the form of doctrinal instruc- 
tion. Doctrine was immaterial. The only essential was 
practice suited to each spirit, to each occasion of life with 
the object of drawing out the essence of life in each man, 
while he exercised full liberty of spirit. All means were 
good ; inward concentration as well as the free play of the 
intellect, brief ecstasies as well as rich parables, laughing 
stories and even the observation of the comedy of the 
universe by sharp and mocking eyes. 
 
The Master is sitting on his little bed and listening to the 
confidences of the disciples. He shares in their intimate 
cares and family affairs ; he affectionately prods the resigned 
Yogananda, curbs the impetuous Vivekananda, and mocks 
the superstitious ghosts of Niranjanananda. He loves to 
race these young runaway colts against each other. Then 
 
4 The Gospel, I, 293 and 178. 
 
He repeats this great saying, which I should like to inscribe on 
the heart of all believers : " God can never appear where there is 
shame, hatred or fear." (Sri Ramakrishna's Teachings, I, par. 316.) 
 
195 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
he will fling into the confusion of impassioned argument 
just the pregnant and mischievous remark that will enlighten 
them and bring them back at a walking pace. Without 
seeming to use the reins he knows how to restore to the 
golden mean those who go too far and those who do not 
go far enough, how to awaken the slumbering spirit and 
how to restrain excess of zeal. His eyes can rest with 
tenderness on the pure face of his St. John, Premananda 
(Baburam), one of those whom he classes with the " Nitya- 
siddhas " those who are pure and perfect before their 
birth 6 and have no need of instruction or sparkle with 
irony when faced with exaggerated Puritanism. 
 
" Too much concentration on ceremonial purity becomes 
a plague. People afflicted with this disease have no time 
to think of man or God." 
 
He kept the neophytes from the useless and dangerous 
practices of the Raja Yoga. 6 What point was there in 
risking life and health when all that was necessary was to 
open the eyes and heart in order to meet God at every 
step ? 
 
" Arjuna invoked Sri Krishna as the Absolute. . . . 
Krishna said to him, ' Come for a while and see what I am 
like/ He led him to a certain spot and asked him, ' What 
do you see ? ' 'A great tree/ said Arjuna, ' with bunches 
of berries hanging from it/ ' No, my friend/ said Sri 
Krishna. ' Draw near and look closer ; these are not 
blackberries but innumerable Sri Krishnas. . . ." 7 
 
And was there any need for pilgrimages to holy places ? 
 
"It is the sanctity of men that makes the sanctity of 
 
5 To this group of the elect Narendra, Rakhal and Bhavanath 
also belonged (Gospel, I, 238). ft is noteworthy that their particu- 
lar type of spirit had nothing to do with their selection. Baburam 
was a foreordained Jnanin and not a Bhakta. 
 
Cf. Saradananda : Ramakrishna said to his disciples, " These 
practices are no longer for this iron age of Kali, when human beings 
are very feeble and short-lived. They have no time to run such 
grave risks. And it is no longer necessary. The sole objects of 
these practices is concentration of mind ; and this is easily attained 
by all who meditate with piety. The grace of the Lord has made 
the way of realization easy. It is only necessary to carry back to 
Him that power of love, which we pour out on the beings surround- 
ing us." (A freely condensed translation.) 
 
f Gospel, II, 16. 
 
196 
 
 
 
THE SWAN SONG 
 
places. Otherwise how can a place purify a man? God 
is everywhere. God is in us. Life and the Universe are 
His Dream/' 
 
But while with his clever fingers he embroidered apo- 
logues 8 upon this everlasting theme, the little peasant of 
Kamarpukur, who united in himself the two natures of 
Martha and Mary, knew how to recall his disciples to 
practical life and humble domestic details ; he did not allow 
idleness, uncleanness nor disorder, and in these respects he 
could teach the sons of the great middle classes ; he himself 
set the example, scouring his house and garden. 
 
Nothing escaped his eyes. He dreamed, he saw, he acted, 
and his gay wisdom always kept the gift of childlike laughter. 
This is how he amused himself by mimicking worldlings and 
false zealots. 
 
" The Master imitated a Kirtani (a professional singer of 
religious hymns, to the great amusement of the disciples. 
The Kirtani and her troupe made their entrance into the 
assembly. She was richly dressed and held a coloured 
handkerchief in her hand. If some venerable gentleman 
came in she greeted him as she sang, and said to him, ' Please 
come in ! ' And she would raise her sari on her arms to 
show the ornaments adorning it. The Master's mimicry 
made the disciples roar with laughter. Paltu rolled upon 
the ground. The Master said, smiling at him, ' What a 
child ! Paltu, do not go and tell your father. The slight 
esteem in which he holds me would vanish entirely. He 
has become an Englishman pure and simple ! ' . . ." 
 
Here are some other types as he described them, 
 
"There are people/' said Ramakrishna, "who never 
 
 
 
8 Here is one beautiful example among many others : 
 
11 A woodcutter went to sleep and dreamed. A friend woke him 
up. ' Ah ! ' said the woodcutter, ' why did you disturb me ? I 
had become a great king, the father of seven children. My sons 
were accomplished in war and the arts. I was enthroned and 
occupied with affairs of state. Why did you shatter this happy 
world ? ' 
 
The friend replied, ' What harm have I done ? It was only a 
dream.' 
 
' You do not understand/ the woodcutter answered. ' To be a 
king in a dream is as true as being a woodcutter. If to be a wood- 
cutter is real, to be a king in a dream is real also. 1 " (Gospel, II, 235.) 
 
197 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
want to chatter so badly as at daily worship. But being 
forbidden to speak, they gesticulate and grimace with closed 
lips : ' Euh ! Euh ! Bring me this. . . . Pass me that. 
. . . Chut ! Chut ! . . .' One is telling his beads, but 
while so engaged he sees the fishmonger, and while his beads 
slip through his fingers he has shown him the fish he wants. 
... A woman went to bathe in the sacred waters of the 
Ganges. She ought to have been thinking about God, but 
this is what she was gossiping : ' What jewels are they 
offering your son ? . . . Such and such a person is ill. ... 
Such and such a person has gone to see his fiancee. . . . 
And do you think the dowry will be a large one ? . . . 
Harish adores me, he cannot do without me for a single 
hour. ... I have not been able to come for a long time ; 
the engagement of so-and-so's daughter has taken place and 
I have been so busy ! and ta, ta, ta. . . / She came to 
bathe in the sacred waters, but she thinks of anything but 
that. . . ." 
 
And at that point as his glance fell upon one of his 
audience, he passed into Samadhi. 9 
 
When he returned again to earth he resumed the thread 
of his interrupted discourse without a break, or else sang 
one of his beautiful songs to the Mother " with the blue 
skin" or to dark Krishna the Beloved. 10 
 
" Oh, the sound of the smooth flute played in the wood 
yonder ! I come ! I come ! I must. . . . My Beloved 
with the dark skin awaits me. ... O my friends, say, 
will you not come with me ? ... My Beloved ! . . . I 
fear that to you he is nothing but a name, a sound void of 
meaning. . . . But to me he is my heart, my soul, my 
life ! . . ." 
 
" Plunge, plunge, plunge in the depths, O my soul ! 
Plunge into the Ocean of Beauty ! . . . Go and search the 
regions deeper than the depths of the seas ! Thou wilt 
attain the jewel, the treasure of Prema (Divine Love). In 
thy heart is the Brindaban (the legendary home) of the God 
of Love. Go and seek, go and seek, go and seek 1 And 
thou shalt find. Then the lamp of knowledge will burn 
 
Gospel, II, 285-86. 
 
10 These colours had a symbolic sense for Ramakrishna. The 
dark blue of the Mother brought the depths of the sky to his mind. 
 
108 
 
 
 
THE SWAN SONG 
 
inextinguishably. Who is this being that steers a boat over 
the earth over the earth over the solid earth ? . . ." 
 
" Companion of the Absolute, O Mother, Thou art plunged 
in the bliss of Play. . . . The wine of joy intoxicates. 
Thy feet reel, but never lose their balance. The Absolute, 
Thy husband, is lying at Thy side, motionless. Thou 
drawest Him to Thy breast, and loseth all control of Thy- 
self. The Universe trembles beneath Thy feet. Madness 
is in Thine eyes and in the eyes of Thy husband. ... In 
truth the world is a thing of joy. ... O my Mother with 
the blue skin ! . . ." " 
 
His song shares in the wine of love intoxicating the 
Mother. 
 
" One of his glances," Vivekananda once said, " could 
change a whole life." 
 
And he spoke from experience, this Naren, who had 
upheld his philosophic doubts in passionate revolt against 
Ramakrishna, until he felt them melting in his constant 
fire and avowed himself vanquished. He had proved the 
truth of what Ramakrishna had told him : that " living 
faith may be given and received in a tangible fashion and 
more truly than anything else in the world." Rama- 
krishna's certainty was so gentle yet so strong that the most 
brutal denials of these young people made him smile ; he 
was so certain that they would disappear like morning mist 
before the midday sun. When Kaliprasad assailed him 
with a torrent of denials, he said, 
 
" My son, do you believe in God ? " 
 
"No." 
 
" Do you believe in religion ? " 
 
" No, nor in the Vedas, nor in any scripture. I do not 
believe in anything spiritual." 
 
The Master indulgently replied, 
 
" My son, if you had said that to any other Guru, what 
would have happened to you ? But go in peace 1 Others 
have passed through these trials before you. Look at 
Naren ! He believes. Your doubts will also be enlightened. 
You will believe." 
 
And Kaliprasad later became the holy apostle, Abhe- 
dananda, 
 
11 Gospel, passim. 
199 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
Many university men, sceptics and agnostics, were similarly 
touched by this little man, who said the simplest things in 
his peasants' language, but whose inner light pierced to the 
depths of the soul. There was no need for his visitors to 
confess themselves. 
 
" The eyes," he said, " are the windows of the soul/ 1 
He read through them at the first glance. In the midst 
of a crowd he could go straight to a bashful visitor, who 
was hiding from him, and put his finger on his doubt, his 
anxiety, his secret wound. He never preached. There was 
no soul-searching or sadness. Just a word, a smile, the 
touch of his hand, communicated a nameless peace, a 
happiness for which men yearned. It is said that a young 
man on whom his glance rested stayed for more than a 
year in an ecstasy, wherein he did nothing but repeat : 
 
"Lord! Lord! My well-beloved ! My well-beloved 1 " 
 
The Master forgave everything, for he believed in infinite 
Kindness. If he saw that some of those who asked his 
help were not fortunate enough to attain the God, whom 
they sought, in this life, he desired to communicate to them 
at least a foretaste of bliss. 
 
No word with him was only a word ; it was an act, a 
reality. 
 
He said, 
 
" Do not speak of love for your brother ! Realize it ! 
Do not argue about doctrine and religion. There is only 
one. All rivers flow to the ocean. Flow and let others 
flow too ! The great stream carves out for itself according 
to the slope of its journey according to race, time and 
temperament its own distinct bed. But it is all the same 
water. . . . Go. . . . Flow on towards the Ocean ! . . ." 
 
The force of his joyously flowing stream communicated 
itself to all souls. He was the power, he was the slope, he 
was the current ; and the other streams and brooks ran 
towards his river. He was the Ganges itself. 
 
 
 
200 
 
 
 
XII 
 
THE RIVER RE-ENTERS THE SEA 
 
HE was nearing the Ocean. The end was approaching. 
His feeble body was almost daily consumed in the 
fire of ecstasy and worn out by his constant gift of himself 
to the starving crowds. Sometimes like a sulky child he 
complained to the Mother of the flood of visitors devouring 
him day and night. In his humorous way he said to Her : x 
 
" Why do you bring hither all these people, who are like 
milk diluted with five times its own quantity of water ? 
My eyes are destroyed with blowing the fire to dry up the 
water ! My health is gone. It is beyond my strength. 
Do it Yourself, if You want it done. This (pointing to his 
body) is nothing but a burst drum, and if You go on beat- 
ing it day in and day out, how long do you think it will 
last ? " * 
 
But he never turned anybody away. He said : 
 
" Let me be condemned to be born over and over again, 
even in the form of a dog, if so I can be of help to a single 
soul ! " 
 
And again : 
 
" I will give up twenty thousand such bodies to help one 
man. It is glorious to help aven one. man ! " 8 
 
He even reproached himself for his ecstasies, because they 
took time that might otherwise have been given to others. 
 
" O Mother, stop me from enjoying them ! Let me stay 
in my normal state, so that I can be of more use in the 
world." 
 
1 1 am quite sure that some of our good believers of the Middle 
Ages, such as the men of the people in Picardy and Burgundy, 
must sometimes have said the same thing. 
 
1 Life of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 694. 
 
* Vivekananda : My Master. 
 
201 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
During his last days when his disciples protected him in 
spite of himself from the importunity of devotees, he said : 
 
" How I suffer because no one needs my help to-day ! " 4 
 
His great friend, the illustrious chief of the Brahmo 
Samaj, Keshab Chunder Sen, preceded him in death. He 
died in 1884. With tears in his eyes, Ramakrishna said of 
him shortly before his death that " the rose tree is to be 
transplanted because the gardener wants beautiful roses of 
him/' 
 
Afterwards he said : 
 
" Half of me has perished/' 
 
But the other half, if it is possible to use such an expres- 
sion, was the humble people. He was as easy of access to 
them, if not more so, as to the most learned ; and among 
the familiar friends of his last years he counted, in the same 
category as the disciples so dear to his heart, simple people, 
madinen of God. Such a one was old Gopaler Ma, whose 
simple story is worthy of a place among the Franciscan 
legends : 
 
An old woman of sixty, widowed while still a girl, 6 she 
had dedicated herself to the Lord. The hunger of her 
unassuaged maternal love had made her for thirty years 
adopt the child Krishna, Gopala, as her own, until it had 
become a harmless mania. No sooner had she met Rama- 
krishna than his God-filled glance made little Gopala issue 
from her. The warm compassion of the Master, which 
made the hidden desires and sorrows of those who came 
near him his own, lent inspiration to the unsatisfied dream 
of the childless mother, and he put the God Child into her 
arms. From that moment the little Gopala never left the 
mother, who had adopted him. Henceforward she did not 
pray ; she had no need to pray, for she lived in unbroken 
communion with her God. She threw her rosary into the 
river and spent her days prattling with the Child. This 
state lasted two months and then was mitigated ; the Child 
only appeared in moments of meditation. But the old 
 
4 Mukerji, loc. cit. 
 
8 For the benefit of my Western readers I would remind them 
that Hindu religious law strictly forbids the remarriage of widows, 
and that against this oppressive rule many of the great Hindu re- 
ligious and social reformers have been ceaselessly striving for the 
last hundred years. 
 
202 
 
 
 
THE RIVER RE-ENTERS THE SEA 
 
woman's heart was filled with happiness, and Ramakrishna 
tenderly regarded her joy. But his ever present sense of 
fun made him ask the old woman to tell her story to the 
haughty Naren, so proud of his critical reason, who held 
such visions to be stupid and morbid illusions. The old 
woman quite simply interrupted her maternal chatter, and 
made Naren her judge : 
 
" Sir/ 1 she said to him, " I am only a poor ignorant 
woman. I do not rightly understand things. You are 
learned. Tell me, do you think it is true ? " 
 
Naren, deeply moved, answered : 
 
" Yes, mother, it is quite true." 
* * * 
 
It was in 1884 that Ramakrishna's health took a serious 
turn. While he was in a trance he dislocated his left arm 
and it was very painful. A great change took place in him. 
He divided his infirm body and his wandering soul into 
two. He no longer spoke of " I." He was no longer " me." 
He called himself " This." 6 The sick man more intensely 
than before perceived, " Lila . . . the Play . . . The God 
who disports Himself in men. ..." The man roughly 
seized his real self and then fell into silent amazement ; his 
joy knew no bounds, as if he had suddenly and unexpectedly 
met one of his dear ones. ... " When Shiva saw his real 
self he cried, ' Such am I ! Such am I ! ' and danced for 
joy." 
 
In April the following year his throat became inflamed. 
Overstrain from constant talking and the dangerous Sam- 
adhis, which made blood flow in his throat, certainly had 
something to do with it. 7 The doctors he consulted forbade 
 
8 From the unpublished Memoirs of Ramakrishnananda, who 
nursed him during his last months. Cf. Sister Devamata : Sri 
Ramakrishna and his Disciples. (These notes have been communi- 
cated to me in manuscript.) 
 
7 But there was more in it than this. Like some famous Chris* 
tian mystics (a) he healed others by taking their ills upon himself. 
In a vision his body appeared to him covered with sores, the sins 
of others : " He took upon himself the Karma of others. 11 And to 
this fact he owed his last illness. He had become the scapegoat 
of humanity. 
 
The idea of suffering the ills of others in his own body, and thus 
relieving them when a certain degree of sanctity has been attained, 
is a very old one in India ; and Swami Ashokananda, whom I have 
 
203 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
both speech and ecstasy, but he paid no attention to them. 
At a great Vaishnava religious festival he spent himself 
 
questioned on the subject, has given me some striking illustra- 
tions from the Holy Books from the Mahabharata (Adi Parva, 
Chapter 84, and Shanti Parva, Chapter 261) from the sayings of 
Buddha, and the life of Chaitanya in the fifteenth century. All 
spiritual personages do not possess this power. It only belongs 
theologically to the Avataras (Incarnations) and to the chosen 
souls, their attendants. Neither pious men nor saints possess it, 
even after they have attained divine realizations, although popular 
superstition falsely attributes it to them in these days, and simple 
people may often be seen approaching Sannyasins and Sadhus (as 
also happened to Jesus) in the hope of unloading upon them their 
physical and spiritual ills. It is still a common belief in India. 
One of its consequences is the so-called Guruvada. If a spiritual 
person accepts a disciple, not only does he give him spiritual in- 
struction, but he takes upon himself everything that might be an 
obstacle in his disciple's Karma all his sins. The Guru then has 
to suffer for the Karmas of his disciples, for nobody can cancel a 
single Karma ; it is merely transferred to another. Swami Asho- 
kananda has added this to show to what point the belief of expia- 
tion by proxy is enrooted in the spirit of the best minds in India 
to-day. " It is not just a theory with us. We have seen examples 
of it, as when the immediate disciples of Ramakrishna suffered for 
having thus taken upon themselves the evils of others, either in 
their capacity as Gurus or by the effect of simple touch. They 
have often spoken of their sufferings on this account." 
 
(a) In particular St. Lydwine, who was charged with the physical 
sufferings of others, St. Marguerita Maria, who took upon herself 
the sufferings of souls in Purgatory, St. Catherine of Siena and 
Marie de Vallees, who prayed for the pains of hell in order to save 
other souls from falling into them, and St. Vincent de Paul, who 
was deprived of his faith for seven years in order to give faith to 
an unbeliever. 
 
Such sacrifices by proxy are in conformity with pure Christian 
Catholic doctrine, which considers humanity as the mystic body of 
Christ. Christ Himself set the example. The prophet Isaiah, who 
realized the Messiah in advance (liii. 45), said, " He hath borne our 
griefs and carried our sorrows. ... He was wounded for our trans- 
gressions. . . . The chastisement of our peace was upon him and 
with his stripes we are healed." The Sacrifice of the Cross has 
always been considered by the Catholic Church as the one complete 
and universal expiation. Thus between ancient India and Judea 
of the Prophets and of Christ there is the same kindred thought, 
born of the universal urge of the soul and belonging to the most 
profound depths of human nature. Cf. also the familiar words of 
Christ, when He instituted the Lord's Supper. " This is my blood 
. . . which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (St. Matthew 
xxvi. 28.) 
 
204 
 
 
 
THE RIVER RE-ENTERS THE SEA 
 
without measure, and in return the disease grew worse. It 
became practically impossible for him to eat. Nevertheless 
he continued to receive those who came to him day and 
night. Then one night he had haemorrhage of the throat. 
The doctors diagnosed cancer. His chief disciples persuaded 
him to put himself for a time under the care of Dr. Mahendra 
Lai Sarkar of Calcutta. In September, 1885, a small house 
was rented where Ramakrishna's wife found a corner for 
herself so that she might supervise his regime. The most 
faithful disciples watched during the night. The majority 
of them were poor, and they mortgaged, borrowed or pawned 
their effects in order to pay the expenses of the Master's 
illness an effort that cemented their union. Dr. Sarkar 
was a rationalist, who did not share the religious views of 
Ramakrishna, and told him so frankly. But the more he 
came to know his patient, the deeper did his respect for 
him become, until he treated him for nothing. He came 
to see him three times a day and spent hours with him 8 
(which, it may be observed in passing, was perhaps not the 
best way to make him better). He said to him : 
 
" I love you so dearly because of your devotion to truth. 
You never deviate by a hair's breadth from what you believe 
to be true. ... Do not imagine that I am flattering you. 
If my father was in the wrong I should tell him so/' 
 
But he openly censured the religious adoration rendered 
to him by the disciples. 
 
" To say that the Infinite came down to earth in the form 
of a man is the ruin of all religions/ 1 
 
Ramakrishna maintained an amused silence, but the 
disciples grew animated in these discussions, which only 
served to increase their mutual esteem ; their faith in their 
Master, whom suffering seemed to illuminate, was strength- 
ened. They tried to understand why such a trial was 
imposed upon him, and divided into groups holding different 
views. The most exalted, headed by Girish the redeemed 
sinner, declared that the Master himself had willed his 
 
He was present during several ecstasies and studied them from 
a medical point of view. A study of his notes would be of great 
interest for European science. It is known that a stethoscopic 
examination of the heart and the condition of the eyes during 
Samadhi show all the symptoms of the condition of death. 
 
205 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
illness, so that he might establish round him the communion 
of apostles. The rationalists with Naren as their mouth- 
piece admitted that the Master's body was subject to the 
laws of nature like other men's. But they all recognized 
the Divine presence in the dying man ; and on the day of 
the great annual festival of Kali, of which Ramakrishna to 
their surprise made no mention, but spent it absorbed in 
ecstasy, they realized that the Mother was dwelling within 
him. 9 The exaltation excited by this belief had its dangers, 
the chief of them being an access of convulsive sentimen- 
talism. They had or pretended to have visions and 
ecstasies with laughter, song and tears. Naren then showed 
for the first time the vigour of his reason and his will. He 
treated them with contempt. He told them that " the 
Master's ecstasies had been bought by a life of heroic 
austerity and desperate conflict for the sake of knowledge ; 
that their effusions were nothing but the vapourings of sick 
imaginations when they were not lies. Those who were 
ill ought to take more care of themselves ! Let them eat 
more and so react against spasms which were worthy only 
of ridiculous females ! And let them beware ! Of those 
who encouraged a religion of ostentatious emotion eighty 
per cent became scoundrels and fifteen per cent lunatics." 
His words acted like a cold douche. They were ashamed 
 
Among the crowds wishing to see the inspired man, there came 
on October 31, 1885, a Christian from Northern India, Prabhudayal 
Misra. He had an interview with Ramakrishna, which gives a 
typical example of the spirit of synthesis enveloping in its accom- 
modating atmosphere the confessions of men holding seemingly 
contradictory views, when they have been filtered through the 
Indian soul. This Indian Christian found it quite possible to be- 
lieve at the same time in Christ a and Ramakrishna ! People were 
present during the following conversation : 
 
The Christian : It is the Lord, who shines through all creatures. 
 
Ramakrishna : The Lord is one, but He is called by a thousand 
names. 
 
The Christian : Jesus is not simply the Son of Mary ; He is 
God Himself. (And then he turned to the disciples and pointed to 
Ramakrishna.) And this is a man whom you see before you ; but at 
times he is none other than God Himself, and you do not recognize 
Him." 
 
At the end of the interview Ramakrishna told him that his long- 
ing for God would be fulfilled. And the Christian made him the 
gift of himself. 
 
2O6 
 
 
 
THE RIVER RE-ENTERS THE SEA 
 
and the majority humbly confessed that their ecstasies were 
shams. Naren's action did not stop there. He gathered 
these young people together and imposed upon them a virile 
discipline. In their need for action he advised them to 
devote themselves to some definite object. The young 
lion's cub began to assert himself in those days as the future 
sovereign of the Order, although he himself was not free 
from his own difficulties and struggles. For him these days 
marked the crisis of despair, when he had to make the final 
choice between the conflicting forces of his nature harrow- 
ing days, fruitful days, preparing the soul for harvest. 
 
Ramakrishna grew worse. Dr. Sarkar advised his 
removal from Calcutta to the country. Towards the 
middle of December, 1885, he was taken to a house in the 
suburbs in the midst of the beautiful gardens of Cossipore, 
and there he spent the last eight months of his mortal life. 
Twelve of his young chosen disciples never left him until 
the end. 10 Naren directed their activities and their prayers. 
They begged the Master to join with them in praying for 
his recovery, and the visit of a Pandit, who shared their 
faith, gave them an opportunity to renew their entreaties. 
 
" The Scriptures/' said the Pandit to Ramakrishna, 
" declare that saints like you can cure yourselves by an 
effort of will." 
 
' ' My spirit has been given to God once and for all. Would 
you have me ask it back ? " 
 
His disciples reproached him for not wishing to be restored 
to health. 
 
" Do you think my sufferings are voluntary ? I wish to 
recover, but that depends on the Mother." 
 
" Then pray to Her." 
 
" It is easy for you to say that, but I cannot speak the 
words." 
 
Naren begged. 
 
" For our sakes 1 " 
 
" Very well," said the Master sweetly. " I will try what 
I can do." 
 
10 Narendra, Rakhal, Baburam, Niranjan, Yogin, Latu, Tarek, 
the two Gopals, Kali, Sasi, and Sarat. Ramakrishna said that his 
illness had divided the disciples for him into those of the " Inner 
Circle (Antaranya) and those of the Outer Circle (Bahiranga).' 1 
 
207 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
They left him alone for several hours. When they 
returned the Master said, 
 
" I said to her, ' Mother, I can eat nothing because of 
my suffering. Make it possible for me to eat a little ! ' 
She pointed you all out to me and said, ' What ! Thou 
canst eat through all these mouths ! ' I was ashamed and 
could not utter another word." 
 
Several days later he said, 11 
 
"My teaching is almost finished. I cannot instruct 
people any longer ; for I see the whole world is filled with 
the Lord. 12 So I ask myself, ' Whom can I teach ? ' " 
 
On January i, 1886, he felt better and walked a few 
steps in the garden. There he blessed his disciples. 18 The 
effects of his blessing manifested themselves in different 
ways in silent ecstasy or in loquacious transports of joy. 
But all were agreed that they received as it were an electric 
shock, an access of power, so that each one realized his 
chosen ideal at a bound. (The distinguishing characteristic 
of Ramakrishna as a religious chief was always that he did 
not communicate a precise faith, but the energy necessary 
for faith ; he played the part, if I may say so, of a mighty 
spiritual dynamo.) In their abounding joy the disciples in 
the garden whom the Master had blessed, called to those 
in the house to come and share the bliss of his benediction. 
In this connection an incident took place that might have 
come from the Christian Gospel the humble Latu and 
Sarat the Brahmin were taking advantage of the Master's 
absence to clean his room and make his bed. They heard 
the calls and saw the whole scene from above ; but they 
continued their task of love, thus renouncing their share of 
 
joy. 
 
Naren also remained Unsatisfied. His father's loss, 
worldly cares and the fever in his own heart consumed him. 
He saw the fulfilment of all the others and felt himself 
abandoned. There had been no response to his anguish, 
no comforting ray to cheer him. He begged Ramakrishna 
to allow him to relieve his misery by several days of 
 
11 On December 23, 1885, according to M. (Mahendra Nath Gupta), 
who noted it down in his Gospel, II, 354. 
Literally, " All is Rama." 
 
11 Each received an appropriate benediction, so it is said. 
 
208 
 
 
 
THE RIVER RE-ENTERS THE SEA 
 
Samadhi ; but the Master rebuked him severely (he kept 
his indulgence for those from whom he expected least) and 
reproached him for such " base thoughts." He must make 
some arrangement for his family and then his troubles would 
be at an end and he would receive everything. Naren wept 
like a lost sheep, and fled through Calcutta and the fields, 
covered with dust and the straw of a stack into which he 
had run he groaned, he was consumed with desire for the 
inaccessible, and his soul knew no rest. Ramakrishna, 
tenderly and pityingly, watched his wild course from afar ; 
he knew quite well that before the divine prey could be 
brought down panting, he would have to pick up the scent. 
He felt that Naren's condition was remarkable, for in spite 
of boasting his unbelief, he was homesick for the Infinite. 
He knew him to be blessed among men in proportion as he 
was proven. He softly caressed Naren's face before the 
other disciples. He recognized in him all the signs of 
Bhakta knowledge through love. The Bhaktas, unlike 
the Jnanins (believers. through knowledge of the mind), do 
not seelc liberation. They must be born and reborn for the 
good of humanity ; for they are made for the love and the 
service of mankind. So long as an atom of desire remains 
they will be reincarnated. When all desires are torn from 
the heart of mankind then at last they will attain Mukti 
(liberation). But the Bhaktas never aspire to it themselves. 
And that is why the loving Master, whose heart was the 
home of all living beings, and who could never forget them, 
always had a preference for the Bhaktas, of whom the 
greatest was Naren. 14 
 
He did not hide the fact that he regarded him as his 
heir. He said to him one day, 
 
14 " The Jnanin rejects Maya. Maya is like a veil (which he dis- 
pels). Look, when I hold this handkerchief in front of the lamp, 
you can no longer see its light." Then the Master held the hand- 
kerchief between him and the disciples and said, " Now you can no 
longer behold my face." 
 
" The Bhakta does not reject Maya. He worships Mahamaya 
(the Great Illusion). He gives himself to Her and prays, ' Mother, 
get out of my way 1 Only so can I hope to realize Brahmin.' " 
 
" The Jnanin denies the three states, the waking state, the dream 
and the deep sleep ; the Bhakta accepts all three." 
 
So Ramakrishna's tenderness, his natural preference, was for 
those who accepted everything, even Illusion, who affirmed and 
 
20g P 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
" I leave these young people in your charge. Busy 
yourself in developing their spirituality/' 
 
And in preparation for a monastic life he ordered them 
to beg their food from door to door without distinction of 
caste. Towards the end of March he gave them the saffron 
robe, the sign of the Sannyasin, and some kind of monastic 
initiation. 
 
The proud Naren set the example of renunciation. But 
it was with great difficulty that he abdicated his spiritual 
pride. The devil would have offered him in vain (as to 
Jesus) the kingdoms of this world, but he would soon have 
found a chink in his armour if he had proposed sovereignty 
of soul to him. One day, in order to test his spiritual power, 
Naren told his companion, Kaliprasad, to touch him while 
he was in a state of meditation. Kali did so and immediately 
fell into the same state. Ramakrishna heard of it and 
rebuked Naren severely for casting his seed into the ground 
for a frivolous object, and he categorically condemned the 
transmission of ideas from one to the other. To attempt 
anything against complete freedom of spirit was anathema. 
You should help others, but you must not substitute your 
thought for theirs. 
 
A little time afterwards Naren, while meditating, had the 
sensation of a light shining behind his head. Suddenly he 
lost consciousness and was absorbed into the Absolute. He 
had fallen into the depths of the terrible Nirvikalpa Samadhi, 
which he had sought for so long, and which Ramakrishna 
had refused to allow him. When, after a long time, he 
returned to himself, it seemed to him that he no longer had 
 
loved everything, who denied nothing, since Evil and Illusion itself 
are of God. 
 
" It is not good to say from the very first, ' I see the Impersonal 
God.' Everything I see men, women, animals, flowers, trees is 
God.' 1 
 
The image of the veil to which Maya is compared is also given 
at other times in the form of the beautiful parable of Sita and 
Rama : 
 
" Rama, Lakshmana his brother and Sita were walking in the 
forest. Rama went first, then Sita, then Lakshmana. Sita was be- 
tween the two brothers and so prevented Lakshmana from seeing 
Rama ; but knowing how this made him suffer, in her tenderness 
and kindness, she sometimes leaned to one side so that he could 
see his brother." 
 
210 
 
 
 
THE RIVER RE-ENTERS THE SEA 
 
a body, but that he was nothing but a face, and he cried 
out, " Where is my body ? " The other disciples were 
terrified and ran to the Master, but Ramakrishna said 
calmly, 
 
" Very well, let him stay like that for a time 1 He has 
worried me long enough/' 
 
When Naren again came down to earth he was bathed 
in ineffable peace. He approached the Master. Rama- 
krishna said to him, 
 
" Now the Mother has shown you everything. But this 
revelation will remain under lock and key, and I shall keep 
the key. When you have accomplished the Mother's work 
you will find this treasure again/' 
 
And he advised him what to do for his health during the 
succeeding days. 
 
The nearer he drew to his end, the more detached he 
became. He spread his serene heaven over the disciple's 
sorrow. The Gospel, written practically at the bedside of 
the dying man, records the harmonious murmurs of his soul 
like a stream in the night amid the heavy silence of the 
apostles, while in the moonlight the branches of the trees 
in the garden rustled gently, shaken by the warm breeze 
of the south. To his friends, his loved ones, who were 
inconsolable at the thought of his loss, 15 he said in a half 
whisper, 
 
" Radha said to Krishna, ' O Beloved, dwell in my heart 
and do not come again in your human form ! ' But soon 
 
15 Naren's passionate soul found it more difficult than the others 
to suppress his revolt against the law of suffering. (Cf. his dialogue 
of April 22 with Hirananda.) 
 
" The plan of this world is diabolical. I could have created a 
better world. Our only refuge is the faith that it is I who can do 
everything." 
 
To which the gentle Hirananda replied, 
 
" That is more easy to say than to realize." And he added 
piously, 
 
" Thou (God) art everything. Not I, but Thou." 
 
But the proud and headstrong Naren repeated, 
 
" Thou art I and I am Thou. There is nothing else but I." 
 
Ramakrishna listened in silence, smiling indulgently, and said 
pointing to Naren, 
 
" He is moving about carrying as it were a naked sword in his 
hand." 
 
211 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
she languished for the sight of the human form of her 
Beloved. But the will of the Lord had to be fulfilled and 
Krishna did not appear in human form for a long time. . . . 
The Lord came and was incarnate in man. Then he returned 
with his disciples le to the Divine Mother." 
 
Rakhal exclaimed, " Do not go away until we do ! " 
 
Ramakrishna smiled tenderly and said, 
 
" A troop of Bauls 17 suddenly entered a house ; they 
sang God's name and danced for joy. Then they left the 
house as suddenly as they had entered it and the owners 
did not know who they were. ..." 
 
He sighed. 
 
" Sometimes I pray that the Lord will grant that I should 
no more be sent into this world." 
 
But he went on at once, 
 
" He (God) reclothes Himself with the human form for 
love of those pure souls who love the Lord." And he 
looked at Naren with ineffable affection. 
 
On the gth of April Ramakrishna said, looking at 
the fan, which he was waving to and fro in the hot 
night, 
 
" Just as I see this fan I am holding in front of me I 
have seen God. . . . And I see . . ." he spoke quite 
low, laying his hand on Naren's and asked, " What did I 
say ? " 
 
Naren replied, " I did not hear distinctly." 
 
Ramakrishna then indicated by signs that He, God, and 
his own self were one. 
 
" Yes," said Naren, " I am He." 
 
" Only a line intervenes for the enjoyment of bliss," 
said the Master. 
 
" But," said the disciple, " the great remain in the world 
even after they have realized their liberation. They keep 
their own ego and its sufferings so that they may fulfil the 
salvation of humanity." 
 
There was absolute silence and then the Master spoke 
again, 
 
"In Hindu belief each Avatara (Incarnation) is accompanied to 
earth by a train of elect souls, his disciples. 
 
17 A Hindu sect, intoxicated with God, who have renounced the 
world. 
 
212 
 
 
 
THE RIVER RE-ENTERS THE SEA 
 
" The roof 18 is within a man's sight, but it is very difficult 
to reach it ... but he who has reached it can let down a 
rope and pull others up to him upon the roof." 
 
This was one of the days when he realized in full the 
identity of all within the One Being ; when he saw that 
" all three were the same substance the victim, the block 
and the executioner/' and he cried in a feeble voice, " My 
God, what a vision ! " He fainted with emotion, but when 
he came to himself he said, " I am well. I have never been 
so well. 1 ' 19 Those who know how terrible was the disease 
from which he died (cancer of the throat) marvelled at the 
loving and kindly smile that never left him. If the glorious 
death upon the Cross was denied to this man, who is the 
Christ to his Indian followers, his bed of agony was no less 
a Cross. 20 And yet he could say, 
 
" Only the body suffers. When the spirit is united to 
God, it can feel no pain." 
 
And again, 
 
" Let the body and its sufferings occupy themselves with 
each other. Thou, my spirit, remain in bliss. Now I and 
my Divine Mother are one for ever. 11 21 
 
18 The metaphor of the roof is often used in Ramakrishna's 
sayings. 
 
" Divine Incarnations can always achieve knowledge of the Abso- 
lute in Samadhi. At the same tune they can come down from the 
heights into human guise so that they love the Lord as father or 
mother, etc. . . . When they say, ' Not this I Not this 1 ' they 
leave the steps behind them one after the other until they reach 
the roof. And then they say, ' This is it I ' But soon they discover 
that the steps are made of the same materials, of bricks and mor- 
tar as the roof. Then they can ascend and descend resting some- 
times on the roof, sometimes on the steps of the staircase. The 
roof represents the Absolute, the %teps the world of phenomena." 
(Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, I, 324.) 
 
19 Ramakrishnananda, the disciple who nursed him, said, " He 
never lost his cheerfulness. He always said he was well and happy." 
(From his unpublished Memoirs.) 
 
10 The Swami Ashokananda has written to me that the photo- 
graph taken of Ramakrishna directly after his death and of which 
there is a copy in the Madras monastery, cannot be reproduced, so 
terribly was the body wasted and ravaged by the disease. The 
sight is unbearable. 
 
11 Two days before his death in answer to Naren's unspoken 
desire to drag from him the avowal he was so loath to make, Rama- 
krishna said, 
 
213 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
Three or four days before his death he called Naren and 
asked to be left alone with him. He looked lovingly upon 
him and passed into an ecstasy. It enveloped Naren in its 
folds. When he came back from the shadows, he saw 
Ramakrishna in tears. The Master said to him, 
 
" To-day I have given you my all and am now only a 
poor fakir, possessing nothing. By this power you will do 
immense good in the world and not until it is accomplished 
will you return/' 22 
 
From that moment all his powers were transferred to 
Naren. The Master and the disciples were one. 
 
Sunday, August 15, 1886. . . . The last day. 
 
In the afternoon he still had the almost miraculous 
 
" He who was Rama and who was Krishna is now Ramakrishna 
in this body lying here." 
 
But he added, 
 
" Not in your Vedantic sense." (That is to say, not merely in the 
sense of identity with the Absolute, but in the sense of Incarnation.) 
 
I am naturally not going to discuss the Hindu belief in the 
Avataras. Beliefs cannot be discussed and this one is of the same 
order as the Christian belief in the God-man. But what I want 
to remove from the mind of the Western reader is the idea that 
there was any feeling of monstrous pride on the part of those who 
believed that within them was the presence of God, like the simple 
Ramakrishna. At other times as when a faithful follower (in 1884) 
said to him, " When I see you I see God," he rebuked him. " Never 
say that. The wave is part of the Ganges, the Ganges is not part 
of the wave." (Gospel, II, 181.) Cf. " The Avataras are to Brah- 
min what the waves are to the Ocean." (From Sri Ramakrishna' s 
Teachings, p. 362.) Ramakrishna considered that he was the habi- 
tation of God, who played within him hidden beneath the veil of 
his corruptible body. " A Divine Incarnation is hard to compre- 
hend it is the play of the Infinite on the finite." (Ibid., 369.) 
Only whereas the Divine Visitor in most men, even " in the saints 
manifests Himself only in part like honey in a flower . . . you suck 
the flower and get a little honey ... in the Incarnation it is all 
honey." (Ibid., 367.) It is all one, for " the Avatar is always one 
and the same, appearing now here, now there, under different 
faces and names Krishna, Christ, etc. . . ." (Ibid., 357.) And 
the name of Christ ought to remind us of another moral aspect, 
which is always part of an Incarnation. The words " flower," 
" honey, 11 " joy " should not lead us astray. There is always the 
element of Divine sacrifice, as in the case of Christ, when God 
becomes incarnate. (Ibid. t 358.) 
 
II " To the Absolute " is to be understood. 
 
214 
 
 
 
THE RIVER RE-ENTERS THE SEA 
 
energy to talk for two hours to his disciples 28 in spite of 
his martyred throat. At nightfall he became unconscious. 
They believed him to be dead, but towards midnight he 
revived. Leaning against five or six pillows supported by 
the body of the humble disciple, Ramakrishnananda, he 
talked up to the last moment with Naren, the beloved 
disciple, and gave him his last counsel in a low voice. Then 
in ringing tones he cried three times the name of his life's 
Beloved, Kali, the Divine Mother, and lay back. The final 
ecstasy began. He remained in it until half an hour before 
noon, when he died. 24 In his own words of faith, " He had 
passed from one room to the other." 
 
And his disciples cried, 
 
" Victory ! " 26 
 
18 On the subject of Yoga. 
 
84 According to the witness of Sarkar. Cf. the unpublished 
Memoirs of Ramakrishnananda. 
 
" On that last night Ramakrishna was talking with us to the 
very last. . . . He was sitting up against five or six pillows, which 
were supported by my body, and at the same time I was fanning 
(him). . . . Narendra took his feet and began to rub them and 
Ramakrishna was talking to him, telling him what he must do. 
' Take care of these boys/ he repeated again and again. . . . Then 
he asked to lie down. Suddenly at one o'clock he fell towards one 
side ; there was a low sound in his throat. . . . Narendra quickly 
laid his feet on the quilt and ran downstairs as if he could not 
bear it. A doctor . . . who was feeling his pulse saw that it had 
stopped. . . . We all believed that it was only Samadhi." 
 
I have also consulted the manuscript copy of Sister Devamata : 
Sri Ramakrishna and his Disciples, and the Memoirs of Sarada Devi, 
Ramakrishna's wife. 
 
15 Literally, " Victory to Baghavan Ramakrishna," as they car- 
ried him to the place of cremation, where his body was burned 
the same evening. 
 
 
 
215 
 
 
 
EPILOGUE TO BOOK I 
 
THE man himself was no more. His spirit had departed 
to travel along the path of collective life in the 
veins of humanity. 
 
The fellowship of apostles began at once ; for the young 
disciples, the witnesses of his last months, found it impos- 
sible to return to the world. They were without resources. 
But four married disciples Balaram Bose to whom Rama- 
krishna's relics were entrusted for the time being, Suren- 
dranath Mitra, Mohendranath Gupta and Girish Chandra 
Ghosh, the converted comedian, encouraged them and 
helped them to found a home. Surendranath Mitra con- 
tributed money for the rent of a half-ruined house at Baran- 
agore near the Ganges. This became the first Math or 
monastery of disciples. A dozen or more gathered there 
under monastic cognomens which have hidden their real 
names from posterity. He who had been Naren, he who 
was and is for all time Vivekananda, 1 put himself at their 
head by common consent. He was the most energetic, the 
most vital, the most intelligent and the Master himself 
had nominated him. The others were tempted to shut 
themselves up in solitude and to allow themselves to be 
buried beneath an intoxicating stupor of memory and of 
grief ; but the great disciple t who knew better than they, 
all the fascination but at the same time the danger of such 
a course, devoted himself to their instruction. He was like 
a tornado of fire in the midst of these hermits ; he roused 
them from their sorrow and ecstasy ; he forced them to 
learn the thoughts of the outside world ; he flooded them 
with the refreshing rain of his vast intellect ; he made them 
taste of all the branches of the tree of knowledge com- 
parative religion, science, history, sociology ; for he wished 
 
1 This was the name he adopted several years later. In Book II 
I trace its origin. 
 
217 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
them to gain a universal perspective ; he led them to 
fruitful discussion without ceasing for a single instant to 
maintain the sacred fire. 
 
It was at the symbolic season of Christmas, 1886, that 
the act giving birth to the Men of God was signed and 
sealed. The story is an arresting one, for it contains the 
thrill of an unforeseen encounter in the night between the 
" Beau Dieu " 2 of the West and the Word of India. 
 
They were assembled at Antpur in the house of the 
mother of one of the disciples (Baburam). 
 
" It was late in the evening when the monks gathered 
together before the fire. Huge logs of wood were brought 
by them and ignited ; and soon a raging flame burned 
upwards, making the darkness beautiful by contrast. And 
overhead was the canopy of the Indian night, and all around 
was the ineffable peace of the rural stillness. Meditation 
began, continuing for a long time. Then a break was made 
and the Leader (Vivekananda) filled the silence with the 
story of the Lord Jesus. 3 From the very beginning, from 
the wondrous mystery of birth it commenced. The monks 
were raised into beatitude with the Virgin Mary when the 
Saviour's coming was announced to her. . . . The monks 
lived with Jesus during the days of His childhood ; they 
were with Him in the Flight into Egypt. They were with 
Him in the Temple surrounded by the Jewish Pandits 
hearing and answering their questions. They were with 
Him at the time when He gathered His first disciples, 
and they adored Him as they adored their own Master. 4 
The many points of similarity in thought and action as 
well as the relationship with the disciples, between Christ 
and Ramakrishna, forcibly brought to their minds the 
old days of ecstasy with their Master. The words of 
Christ the Redeemer rang upon their ears as familiar 
sayings." 
 
And the story of the Passion, of the Crucifixion, threw 
 
1 So the French people call a celebrated statue of Christ on the 
portal of the Gothic cathedral of Amiens. 
 
Vivekananda had a passionate regard for Christ, whose divinity 
Ramakrishna, as we have seen, had acknowledged. 
 
4 Of two among them, Sasibhushan (Ramakrishnananda) and 
Saratchandra (Saradananda) Ramakrishna had said that they had 
been the disciples of Christ in a former life. 
 
218 
EPILOGUE TO BOOK I 
 
them into the depths of meditation. Through Naren's 
eloquence they had been admitted to the apostolic circle 
where Paul preached the Gospel. The fire of Pentecost 
consumed their souls in the peace of the Bengal village ; 
and the mingled names of Christ and of Ramakrishna stole 
upon the night air. 
 
Then Vivekananda appealed to the monks. He besought 
them to become Christs in their turn, to work for the redemp- 
tion of the world, to renounce all as Jesus had done and to 
realize God. Standing before the wood fire, their faces 
reddened by the leaping flames, the crackling of the logs 
the only sound that broke the stillness of their thoughts, 
they solemnly took the vows of everlasting Sannyasa, each 
before his fellows and all in the sight of God. 
 
And it was not until that moment when all had been 
accomplished that the monks remembered that that very 
night was Christmas Eve. 6 
 
A beautiful symbol of profound significance heralding the 
Nativity of a new Day of God. . . . 
 
But Europe must not be misled when she reads this story. 
This was no return to Jordan. Rather it was the confluence 
of the Jordan and the Ganges. The two united streams 
flowed together along their wider river bed. 
 
From its very inception the new Order had in it some- 
thing that was unique. Not only did it contain within 
itself the energy of faith both of the East and of the West, 
not only did it unite an encyclopaedic study of the sciences 
and religious meditation, but in it the ideal of contemplation 
was wedded to the ideal of human service. From the first 
Ramakrishna's spiritual sons were not allowed to shut 
themselves up within the wa^ls of a monastery. One after 
the other they went out to wander through the world as 
mendicant monks. Only one, Ramakrishnananda (Sasibhu- 
shan), the guardian of the relics, remained in the dovecote 
whither the birds of passage returned from time to time for 
rest. During the last months of the Master's life the humble 
ideal of Martha had been adopted Dienen . . . Dienen 
to serve (the word of Parsifal). They practised it in their 
service for the suffering Master, in the service of the bodies 
of those whose spirit was engrossed in the service of 
8 The Life of the Swami Vivekananda, Vol. II. 
219 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
God, and in service to the praying brethren. This was 
the Master's own way of " realization/' and the aged 
Tolstoy would have said that he had chosen the better 
part. 
 
But each had his own part to play, for each unconsciously 
through the very bent of his nature represented one phase 
or one aspect of the multiform personality of Ramakrishna. 
When they were assembled together he was there in his 
entirety. 
 
Their mighty spokesman, Vivekananda, on behalf of them 
all was to spread throughout the world the World of him, 
who, he claimed, was the living synthesis of all the spiritual 
forces of India. 
 
"I ... had the great good fortune to sit at the feet of 
one, . . . whose life, a thousand-fold more than whose 
teaching was a living commentary on the texts of the 
Upanishads, was in fact the spirit of the Upanishads living 
in human form . . . the harmony of all the diverse thought 
of India. . . . 6 India has been rich in thinkers and sages. 
. . . The one had a great head (Sankara), the other a large 
heart (Ramanuja), and the time was ripe for one to be born, 
the embodiment of both this head and heart . . . who in 
one body would have the brilliant intellect of Sankara and 
the wonderfully expansive infinite heart of Chaitanya ; one 
who would see in every sect the same spirit working, the 
same God ; one who would see God in every being, one 
whose heart would weep for the poor, the weak, for the 
outcast, for the downtrodden, for everyone in this world, 
inside India or outside India ; and at the same time whose 
grand brilliant intellect would conceive of such noble 
thoughts as would harmonize 4 all conflicting sects . . . and 
bring a marvellous harmony, the universal religion >f head 
and heart into existence ; such a man was born. . . . The 
time was ripe, it was necessary that such a man should be 
born, and he came ; and the most wonderful part of it was, 
that his life's work was just near a city which was full of 
Western thought, a city which had run mad after these 
occidental ideas, a city which had become more Europeanized 
than any other city in India. There he lived without any 
 
f Speeches at Calcutta and Madras : " The Vedanta in All its 
Phases/' and " The Sages of India." 
 
220 
 
 
 
EPILOGUE TO BOOK I 
 
book-learning whatever ; this great intellect never learnt 
even to write his own name, but the most brilliant graduates 
of our university found in him an intellectual giant 7 . . . 
the sage for the time, one whose teaching is just now, in 
the present time, most beneficial. ... If I have told you 
one word of truth it was his and his alone, and if I have 
told you many things which were not correct . . . they 
were all mine, and on me is the responsibility." 
 
Thus at the feet of the simple Ramakrishna the most 
intellectual, the most imperious, the most justifiably proud 
of all the great religious spirits of modern India humbled 
himself. He was the St. Paul of this Messiah of Bengal. 
He founded his Church and his doctrine. He travelled 
throughout the world and was the aqueduct akin to those 
arches that span the Roman Campagna, along which the 
waters of the spirit have flowed from India to Europe 8 
 
7 The greatest philosophical and religious mind of the India of 
to-day, Aurobindo Ghose, a man unattached to any particular school 
of thought, has paid a brilliant tribute to Ramakrishna's genius, 
throwing into prominence the exceptional multiplicity of his spiritual 
powers and the still more exceptional soul directing them : 
 
" In a recent and unique example, in the life of Ramakrishna 
Paramahamsa, we see a colossal spiritual capacity first driving 
straight to the divine realization, taking as it were, the kingdom of 
heaven by violence, and then seizing upon one Yogic method after 
another and extracting the substance out of it with an incredible 
rapidity, always to return to the heart of the whole matter, the 
realization and possession of God by the power of love, by the 
extension of inborn spirituality into various experience and by the 
spontaneous play of an intuitive knowledge. Such an example 
cannot be generalized. Its object also was special and temporal, 
to exemplify in the great and decisive experience of a master soul 
the truth, now most necessary to humanity, towards which a world 
long divided into jarring sects and schools is with difficulty labour- 
ing, that all sects are forms and fragments of a single integral truth 
and all disciplines labour in their different ways towards one supreme 
experience. To know, be, and possess the divine is the one thing 
needful and it includes or leads up to all the rest ... all the rest 
that the divine Will chooses for us, all necessary form and mani- 
festation, will be added." (" The Synthesis of Yoga," Arya Review, 
Pondicherry, No. 5, December 15, 1914.) 
 
In this way the essential significance of the personality and life 
of Ramakrishna has been realized by the master metaphysician of 
India to-day. 
 
Mother Europe and her brood of the Americas. 4 
 
221 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
and from Europe back to India, joining scientific reason to 
Vedantic faith and the past to the future. 
 
It is this Journey of the soul that I intend to trace in 
future pages. Up to now I have led European thought to 
the distant countries of religious mythology, whose wide- 
spreading tree, the giant banyan, too often considered by 
the West to be dried up and withered, continues to shoot 
out great flowering branches. I shall then lead it back by 
unsuspected paths to its home where modern reason sits 
enthroned. And it will discover at the end of the journey 
that between one country and another the gulf of centuries 
dividing them is, when subjected to " wireless " of free 
understanding, no wider than a hair's breadth and the 
space of a second. 
 
R. R. 
Christmas, 1928. 
 
 
 
222 
 
 
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY 
 
I . The chief source for the history of Ramakrishna is the great 
Biography, compiled from the accounts of his disciples and 
published by the Swami Madhavananda : 
 
Life of Sri Ramakrishna, compiled from various authentic sources, 
one volume of 765 pages in the edition of the Advaita Ashrama 
(the intellectual centre of the Order), Mayavati, Almora, Hima- 
layas, 1925. (Himalayan Series, No. XLVII.) 
 
It is prefaced with a short introduction by Gandhi, which I 
feel it is of interest to reproduce : 
 
" The story of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's life is a story 
of religion in practice. His life enables us to see God face to 
face. No one can read the story of his life without being con- 
vinced that God alone is real and that all else is an illusion. Rama- 
krishna was a living embodiment of godliness. His sayings are 
not those of a mere learned man, but they are pages from the 
Book of Life. They are revelations of his own experience. They 
therefore leave on the reader an impression which he cannot 
resist. In this age of scepticism Ramakrishna presents an 
example of a bright and loving faith which gives solace to thou- 
sands of men and women who would otherwise have remained 
without spiritual light. Ramakrishna's life was an object lesson 
in Ahimsa. His love knew no limits geographical or otherwise. 
May his divine love be an inspiration to all who read the fol- 
lowing pages. 
 
M. K. GANDHI. 
SABARMATI, 
 
MARGSHEERSH, KRISHNA I, 
Vikram Samvati, 1891." 
 
As is shown by an editorial note this work is Abased on the 
labours of Swami Saradananda, a direct disciple of the Master 
and the Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission for more than a 
quarter of a century ; on those of Ramchandra Dutt and of 
Akshay Kumar Sen, both of them disciples of Ramaicrishna ; on 
memories collected by Priyanath Sinha (ah* as Gurudas Varman), 
a disciple of Vivekananda ; on the Discourses of the Master 
taken down by Mahendra Nath Gupta. 
 
This compilation is valuable because of the religious care which 
has been taken to collect in it literally all the documents at first 
hand, which had been scattered abroad. But it is inconvenient 
 
223 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
because they are presented without any arrangement and with- 
out criticism. And the lack (up to the present) of an alpha- 
betical index makes research into it very difficult. 
2. Of much greater value from the point of view of arrangement 
and reason is the work of Swami Saradananda. It consists of 
five volumes written in Bengali, which, however, do not give a 
consecutive and full account of the life. The story, unfortunately 
interrupted by the death of Saradananda in 1927, stops short at 
the point when Ramakrishna during his last illness was moved 
to the gardens of Cossipore, and therefore the last months are 
missing. The work is also incomplete with regard to Rama- 
krishna's disciples, with one or two exceptions, the most note- 
worthy being Vivekananda. 
 
The title of the series in Bengali is : 
 
Sri Ramakrishna-lila-prasanga (Discourse on the lila (the play) 
of Ramakrishna). 
 
The titles of the five volumes in Bengali are as follows : 
I and II. Gurubhave (Sri Ramakrishna as Guru or master). 
 
III. Valya-jivana (The Youth of Ramakrishna). 
 
IV. Sadhakabhava (Ramakrishna as Sadhaka). 
 
V. Divyabhava (Ramakrishna in his divine form). 
 
Only two volumes have appeared in English ; the first written 
by Saradananda himself ; the second translated from the original 
Bengali. 
 
Some of the other chapters from the Bengali work have been 
published in the Reviews of the Ramakrishna Order, Prabuddha 
Bharata (hi particular the relations of Ramakrishna with Vive- 
kananda), and in another English magazine. 
 
Saradananda planned this work in the form of an exposition 
of the various aspects of his life without presenting it in the 
form of a consecutive narrative. The first two volumes in 
Bengali were written according to this plan. Then Saradananda 
changed it to the form of an ordinary biography. The third 
volume is devoted to the youth, the fourth to the years when 
Ramakrishna was practising his Sadhana ; it takes us to the 
end of this exercise and to the first relations with the Brahmo 
Samaj, where the part played by Ramakrishna as a teacher (but 
not yet as a religious manifestation) is brought out. The fifth 
volume describes the Master in the midst of his disciples and 
the beginning of his illness. At this point he saw the death of 
the " Holy Mother " (Ramakrishna's wife), and then that of 
Swami Brahmananda, who, with Vivekananda, had been the 
favourite disciple and the first Abbot of the Order. He was so 
overwhelmed with grief that he abandoned his written work and 
gave himself up wholly to meditation. 
 
Incomplete though the work remains, it is excellent for the 
subject. Saradananda is an authority both as a philosopher 
and as an historian. His books are rich in metaphysical sketches, 
which place the spiritual apr^earance of Ramakrishna exactly in 
its place in the rich procession of Hindu thought. 
 
224 
 
 
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY 
 
If variations appear between the Bengali work of Saradananda 
and the Life of Sri Ramakrishna (No. i), which is the collective work 
of the Ramakrishna Order, the latter must be given the prefer- 
ence (according to the evidence I have received from Swami 
Ashokananda), for it was drawn up with Saradananda's help 
after his own work. 
 
3. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (according to M., a son of the 
Lord and disciple), or the Ideal Man for India and the World, 
2 volumes, Madras, published by the Ramakrishna Math, 1897 
(preceded by two approving letters of Vivekananda), 2nd Edition, 
1911. (New Editions in 1922-24.) * 
 
This Gospel of Ramakrishna is as valuable as the great Bio- 
graphy (No. i), for it is the faithful account of M. (Mahendra 
Nath Gupta, the head of an educational establishment at Cal- 
cutta) of the Discourses with the Master, either his own or those 
which he actually heard from the summer of 1882 for the next 
four years. Their exactitude is almost stenographic. A good 
alphabetical index makes it possible to find one's way among 
the diversity of subjects treated in the course of the days. 
 
4. The Life of the Swami Vivekananda, by his Eastern and Western 
Disciples, the Advaita Ashrama, Himalayas, the semi-centenary 
birthday memorial edition, in three volumes, 8 published by the 
Swami Virajananda from the Prabuddha Bharata Office, Advaita 
Ashrama, Mayavati, Almora, Himalayas. Volumes I and II, 
1914 ; Volume III, 1915 ; Volume IV, 1918. 
 
This great life of Ramakrishna's chief disciple has not only 
a capital interest for its own history, but for that of his Master, 
since it embodies his own direct memories. 
 
It is also useful to consult the Complete Works of Swami Vive- 
kananda, in 7 volumes. He often speaks of his Master with pious 
gratitude. He dedicated to him in particular a celebrated lec- 
ture in New York published under the title : My Master t in 
Volume IV of the Complete Works. 
 
5. Sri Ramakrishna' s Teachings, 2 small volumes, 1916 and 1920 
(Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati). 
 
These are a collection of thoughts delivered during the various 
Discourses of the Master, in particular in the Gospel of Sri Rama* 
krishna, and arranged in methodical order. It is especially 
valuable as a little practical volume. It appeared piecemeal in 
the Review of the Order, the Prabuddha Bharata, and in other 
Indian Reviews between 1900 and 1913. A German edition is 
at the moment being prepared. 
 
1 To my great regret the only two volumes of the Gospel, which 
I could procure, were of two different editions : the first volume 
belonged to the 4th edition of 1924, the second volume to the first 
of 1922. But it may be presumed that in so short an interval the 
arrangement and style differed but little. 
 
1 In reality there are four and not three volumes in this publi- 
cation. 
 
225 Q 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
6. Words of the Master (Selected Precepts of Sri Ramakrishna), com- 
piled by Swami Brahmananda, 1924 (Udbodhan Office, Bagh- 
bazar, Calcutta). 
 
Another small anthology, chiefly interesting on account of the 
personality of the anthologist. 
 
7. Ramakrishna, his Life and Sayings, by Max Miiller (Longmans, 
Green and Co.), ist edition, 1898, new edition, 1923. 
 
Max Miiller knew Vivekananda personally in England ; and 
he asked him to give him a complete account of the life of his 
Master. His small work is therefore based on first-hand evidence ; 
and he uses it with his broad and clear critical spirit, in which 
are allied the scientific exegesis of the West and a generous 
understanding of all forms of thought. 
 
8. The Face of Silence, by Dhan Gopal Mukerji (New York, E. P. 
Button and Co.), 1926. 
 
This work, which is of exceptional value as a work of art, is 
a brilliant evocation of the figure of the Master in the atmo- 
sphere of the India of his time. Mukerji has consulted all the 
principal documents. He has also interviewed several of the 
eminent personalities of the Ramakrishna Mission, who knew the 
Master, in particular Swami Turiyananda, and he has used the 
Memoirs of Swami Premananda, one of Ramakrishna's dearest 
disciples. The Ramakrishna Mission has not taken in very good 
part the liberties due at times to the lively imagination of the 
artist in the reported words ; and it has issued a warning against 
some of its " theological " interpretations, whose character seem 
of too personal a nature. For my own part I can never forget 
that it is to the perusal of this beautiful book that I owe my 
first knowledge of Ramakrishna and the impetus leading me to 
undertake this work. I here record my gratitude. With extra- 
ordinary talent and tact Mukerji in this book has chosen and 
put in the limelight those features in Ramakrishna's personality 
which will most attract the spirit of Europe and America with- 
out shocking it. I have felt it necessary to go beyond his pre- 
cautions and to cite documents exactly without allowing myself 
to " embroider " them. 
 
9. It is useful to consult the Reviews of the Ramakrishna Order, 
which have published and still continue to publish studies and 
unpublished memories of the Master and his disciples chiefly 
Prabuddha Bharata and The Vedanta Kesari. 
 
I said at the outset how much I owe to the good counsels 
and the information of the Ramakrishna Mission, which has 
tirelessly put at my disposal its documents and replied to my 
questions. I can only repeat my thanks. 
 
R. R. 
 
 
 
226 
 
 
 
ICONOGRAPHY 
 
There are only three pictures of Ramakrishna which appear to 
be authentic : 
 
1. One published in the great Biography in English, published by 
the Advaita Ashrama (p. 262). Ramakrishna was taken to a 
photographer and involved in a spiritual conversation in the 
course of which he fell into the Samadhi. A photograph was 
then taken and when Ramakrishna saw it afterwards he made 
the remark that it represented an exalted condition of yoga. 
 
2. One published in Volume IV of the Complete Works of Swami 
Vivekananda, p. 150. 
 
3. One which I hope to publish sent to me by Swami Ashokananda. 
It was taken during a Kirtan (religious dances and songs) in 
which he was taking part with ecstatic joy. 
 
The portrait in colours reproduced as the frontispiece of the big 
Biography was painted by an Austrian artist, but not from the 
living model. The disciples considered that it was very like him 
except that it was too highly coloured. 
 
 
 
NOTE 
 
SARADADEVI AND THE BRIGANDS 
 
In order to join her husband Saradadevi had often to cross the 
plain between Kamarpukur and Dakshineswar on foot, and at that 
time it was infested with bands of brigands, worshippers of Kali. 
 
One day she was returning to Dakshineswar in the company of 
several others. She was so tired when night fell that she could 
not keep up with the rest of the little band and dropped behind. 
Soon they were lost to view and she found herself alone in com- 
plete darkness at the beginning of the dangerous plain. At that 
moment she saw a swarthy man coming towards her. He was big 
and strong and carried a club or* his shoulder ; he was followed 
by another figure. She saw that there was no possibility of escape 
and remained motionless. The man came up to her and said in 
a rough voice, 
 
11 What are you doing here at this time of night ? " 
 
She answered him, 
 
" Father, my companions left me behind and I have lost myself. 
Will you be so kind as to take me to them ? Your son-in-law 
dwells in the temple of Kali at Dakshineswar. I am going to him. 
If you will take me as fax as that, he will be most grateful to you." 
 
At that moment the other figure came up. Saradadevi realized 
with relief that it was the man's wife. She took her by the hand 
and said, 
 
227 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
" Mother, I am your daughter Sarada. I am lost here and all 
alone. My companions have deserted me. Fortunately you and 
my father turned up 1 Otherwise I do not know what I should 
have done." 
 
Her simple ways, her absolute trust, and her sweet words touched 
the hearts of the man and woman. They belonged to the lowest 
caste ; but they forgot everything and treated Sarada as their 
daughter. She was tired. They would not allow her to continue 
her journey ; they made her sleep at a shop in the neighbouring 
village. The woman took off her own clothes in order to make a 
bed for her. The man brought her some puffed rice that he had 
bought at the shop. They watched over her as if they had been 
indeed her parents all night, and in the morning they took her as 
far as Tarakeswar, where they begged her to rest. The woman 
said to her husband, 
 
" My daughter did not have much to eat yesterday. Go and 
fetch some fish and vegetables for her from the bazaar. She must 
have better food to-day." 
 
While the man had gone to fetch them, Sarada's companions 
came back to look for her. She introduced her Bagdi 1 parents to 
them, and said, 
 
" I do not know what I should have done, if they had not come 
to the rescue." 
 
" When we separated,' 1 so she told afterwards, " this single night 
had made us so dear to one another that I wept for grief when 
I said good-bye to them. I made them promise to come to 
Dakshineswar to see me. They followed us for some time. The 
woman picked a few green peas growing at the side of the road 
and wrapped them in a fold of my sari, and said ' Mother Sarada, 
to-night when you eat your puffed rice take these with it.' ... 
They came to see me several times at Dakshineswar and brought 
me different presents. ' He ' a behaved towards them as if he 
were their son-in-law, and treated them with great affection and 
respect. . . . But although my Dacoit father was so good and 
simple, I suspect that he had more than once committed acts of 
brigandage. ..." 
 
Adapted from the Modern Review, June, 1927. 
 
1 A low caste. 
 
* " He," that is to say, " my husband." An orthodox Hindu 
wife must never name her husband. 
 
 
 
228 
 
 
 
Book II 
 
 
 
VIVEKANANDA 
 
" Never forget the glory of human nature ! We are the greatest 
God. . . . Christs and Buddhas are but waves on the boundless 
Ocean which / am." 
 
Vivekananda in America, 1896. 
 
 
 
Part I 
 
THE LIFE OF VIVEKANANDA 
PRELUDE 
 
THE great disciple whose task it was to take up the 
spiritual heritage of Ramakrishna and disseminate 
the grain of his thought throughout the world, was both 
physically and morally his direct antithesis. 
 
The Seraphic Master had spent his whole life at the 
feet of the Divine Beloved, the Mother the Living God. 
He had been dedicated to Her from infancy ; before he 
had attained self-consciousness he had the consciousness 
that he loved Her. And although, in order to rejoin her, 
he had been condemned to years of torment, that was 
after the manner of a knight errant the sole object of whose 
trials was to make him worthy of the object of his chaste 
and religious love. She alone was at the end of all the 
interlacing paths in the forest. She alone, the multiple 
God, among the thousands of Faces. And when he had 
reached her, he found that he had learned to recognize 
all those other faces, and to love them in Her, so that 
with Her he embraced the whole world. The rest of his 
life had been spent in the serene fullness of this cosmic 
Joy, whose revelation Beethoven and Schiller have sung 
for the West. 1 
 
But he realized it more fully than our tragic heroes. 
Joy appeared to Beethoven only as a gleam of bJue through 
the chaos of conflicting clouds, while the Paramahamsa 
the Indian swan rested his great white wing on the sapphire 
lake of eternity beyond the veil of tumultuous days. 
 
1 Reference to Beethoven's IXth (Choral) Symphony, which ends 
with a setting of Schiller's Ode to Joy. Translator's Note. 
 
231 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
It was not given to his proudest disciples to emulate 
him. The greatest of them, the spirit with the widest 
wings Vivekananda could only attain his heights by 
sudden flights amid tempests which remind me over and 
over again of Beethoven. Even in moments of rest upon 
its bosom the sails of his ship were filled with every wind 
that blew. Earthly cries, the suffering of the age, fluttered 
round him like a flight of famished gulls. The passions 
of strength (never of weakness) were striving within his 
lion's heart. He was energy personified, and action was 
his message to men. For him as for Beethoven it was 
the root of all the virtues. He went so far in his aversion 
to passivity, whose secular yoke weighs so heavily on the 
patient bovine brow of the East, as to say : 
 
" Above all, be strong ! Be manly ! I have a respect 
even for one who is wicked, so long as he is manly and 
strong; for his strength will make him some day give 
up his wickedness, or even give up all works for selfish 
ends, and will thus eventually bring him into the 
Truth/ 1 * 
 
His athletic form was the opposite of the fragile and 
tender, yet wiry, body of Ramakrishna. He was tall (five 
feet, eight and a half inches), 8 square shouldered, broad 
chested, stout, rather heavily built ; his arms were muscular 
and trained to all kinds of sports. He had an olive com- 
plexion, a full face, vast forehead, strong jaw, 4 a pair of 
magnificent eyes, large, dark and rather prominent with 
heavy lids, whose shape recalled the classic comparison to 
a lotus leaf. Nothing escaped the magic of his glance, 
capable equally of embracing in its irresistible charm or 
of sparkling with wit, irony, or kindness, of losing itself 
in ecstasy, or of plunging imperiously to the very depths 
of consciousness and of withering with its fury. But his 
pre-eminent characteristic was kingliness. He was a born 
 
1 1891. To his Alwar disciples in Rajputana. 
 
He weighed 170 pounds. In the Phrenological Journal of New 
York (reproduced in Volume II of the Life of Vivekananda) the 
exact measurements may be found that were taken at the time of 
his first journeys in America. 
 
4 His jaw was more Tartar than Hindu. Vivekananda boasted 
of his Tartar ancestors, and he loved to say that in India " the 
Tartar is the wine of the race." 
 
232 
 
 
 
PRELUDE 
 
king and nobody ever came near him either in India or 
America without paying homage to his majesty. 
 
When this quite unknown young man of twenty-nine 
appeared in Chicago at the inaugural meeting of the Parlia- 
ment of Religions, opened in September, 1893, by Cardinal 
Gibbons, all his fellow members were forgotten in his com- 
manding presence. His strength and beauty, the grace 
and dignity of his bearing, the dark light of his eyes, his 
imposing appearance, and from the moment he began to 
speak, the splendid music of his rich deep 6 voice enthralled 
the vast audience of American Anglo-Saxons, previously 
prejudiced against him on account of his colour. The 
thought of this warrior-prophet 6 of India left a deep mark 
upon the United States. 7 
 
It was impossible to imagine him in the second place. 
Wherever he went he was the first. Even his master 
Ramakrishna in a vision which I have related, represented 
himself with regard to his beloved disciple, as a child beside 
a great Rishi. It was in vain that Vivekananda refused 
to accept such homage, judging himself severely and humili- 
ating himself, everybody at sight recognized in him the 
leader, the anointed of God, the man marked with the 
stamp of the power to command. A traveller who crossed 
his path without knowing who he was in the Himalayas, 
stopped in amazement and cried, " Shiva. . . ." 8 
 
It was as if his chosen God had imprinted His name 
upon his forehead. 
 
But this same forehead was weather-beaten like a crag 
by the four winds of the spirit. He very rarely realized 
the calm air, the limpid spaces of thought, whereon Rama- 
 
 
 
6 He had a beautiful voice like a violoncello (so Miss Josephine 
MacLeod told me), grave without violent contrasts but with deep 
vibrations that filled both hall and hearts. Once his audience 
was held he could make it sink to an intense piano piercing his 
heaxers to the soul. Emma Calve, who knew him, described it 
as " an admirable baritone, having the vibrations of a Chinese 
gong." 
 
6 He belonged to the Kayastha class, a sub-caste of warriors. 
 
7 The Ramakrishna Mission, after its introduction by him, spread 
rapidly, and he found among Americans several of his most devoted 
disciples. 
 
8 Related by Dhan Gopal Mukerji. 
 
233 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
krishna's smile hovered. His super-powerful body 9 and 
too vast brain were the predestined battlefield for all 
the shocks of his storm-tossed soul. The present and the 
past, the East and the West, dream and action, struggled 
for supremacy. He knew and could achieve too much to 
be able to establish harmony by renouncing one part of 
his nature, or one part of truth. The synthesis of his 
great opposing forces took years of struggle, consuming 
his courage and his very life. Battle and life for him were 
synonymous. 10 And his days were numbered. Sixteen 
years passed between Ramakrishna's death and that of 
his great disciple . . . years of conflagration . . . He was 
less than forty years of age when the athlete lay stretched 
upon the pyre. . . . 
 
But the flame of that pyre is still alight to-day. From 
his ashes, like those of the Phoenix of old, has sprung 
the magic bird faith in her unity and in the Great Message, 
brooded over from Vedic times by the dreaming spirit of 
an ancient people the message for which they must render 
account to the rest of mankind. 
 
Although marked very early by the first attacks of diabetes, 
the poison from which he died. This Hercules had death always 
sitting by his side. 
 
10 Did he not define life : " The tendency of the unfoldment 
and development of a being under circumstances tending to press 
it down." (April, 1891 : Interview with the Maharaja of Khetri.) 
 
 
 
234 
 
 
 
THE PARIVRAJAKA : THE CALL OF THE EARTH TO THE 
WANDERING SOUL 
 
AFTER Christmas night, 1886, the vigil of Barana- 
gore, where the New Communion of Apostles was 
founded amid tears of love in memory of the lost Master 
many months and years elapsed before the work was 
begun that translated Ramakrishna's thought into living 
action. 
 
There was the bridge to be built and they could not 
at first make up their minds to build it. The only one 
with the necessary energy and constructive genius, Naren x 
 
1 1 would remind the reader that his real name was Narendra- 
nath Dutt. He did not adopt the name of Vivekananda until the 
moment of his departure for America in 1893. 
 
I have consulted the Ramakrishna Mission on this subject. 
Swami Ashokananda has been good enough to put at my disposal 
all the results of a profound research. According to the decisive 
witness of one of Vivekananda J s most important monastic disciples, 
the Swami Suddhananda, the present Secretary of the R.M., Rama- 
krishna always used his name Narendra, or more shortly, Naren. 
Although he had made Sannyasins of certain of his disciples it was 
never according to the usual forms and he never gave them monastic 
names. He had indeed given Naren the cognomen of Kamalaksha 
(lotus eyed) ; but Naren dropped it immediately. During his first 
journeys in India he appeared under different names, in order to 
conceal his identity. Sometimes he was the Swami Vividishananda, 
sometimes Satchidananda. Again on the eve of his departure for 
America, when he went to ask Colonel Olcutt, then President of 
the Theosophical Society, for letters of introduction to America, it 
was under the name of Satchinananda that Colonel Olcutt knew 
him, and instead of recommending him to his friends in America, 
warned them against him. (Olcutt's letter to Sharmapala, in 
America, has been read by Suddhananda.) It was his great friend, 
the Maharajah of Khetri, who suggested the name Vivekananda to 
him at the moment when he was stepping on board the boat to 
go to America. The choice of the name was inspired by an illusion 
 
235 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
himself hesitated. He, even more uncertain than them all, 
was torn between dream and action. Before he raised the 
arch which was to span the two banks, it was necessary 
for him to know and to explore the other bank : the real 
world of India and the present day. But nothing as yet 
was clear : his coming mission burnt dimly in the feverish 
heart of this young man of destiny whose years only num- 
bered twenty-three. The task was so heavy, so vast, so 
complex 1 How could it be accomplished even in spirit ? 
And when and where was it to be begun ? In anguish he 
put off the decisive moment. But was he able to prevent 
its impassioned discussion in the secret depths of his mind ? 
It pursued him, every night from his adolescence, not 
consciously but subconsciously through the ardent and con- 
flicting instincts of his nature with all its conflicting desires 
the Desire to have, to conquer, to dominate the earth, 
the Desire to renounce all earthly things in order to possess 
God. 8 
 
The struggle was constantly renewed throughout his life. 
This warrior and conqueror wanted to have everything, 
both God and the world to dominate everything to 
renounce everything. The superfluity of powers striving 
within his Roman athlete body and Imperator brain con- 
tended for mastery. But this very excess of force made 
it impossible for him to confine his torrential waters within 
any bed save that of the river of God and complete self- 
surrender to the Unity. How was this contest between 
pride and imperious love, between his two great desires, 
rival and sovereign brothers, to be decided ? 
 
There was a third element, which Naren himself had 
not foreseen, but which the prophetic eye of Ramakrishna 
had discerned from afar. At a time when the others were 
showing anxiety or mistrust with regard to this young 
man, in whom such tumultuous forces were at work, the 
Master had declared : 
 
" The day when Naren comes in contact with suffering 
 
to the " power of discrimination " possessed by the Swami. Naren 
-accepted it, perhaps provisionally, but he could never have changed 
it wen if he had wanted to : for within a few months the name 
had acquired an Indo- American celebrity. 
 
* Cf . the story told by Naren of his spiritual conflicts in previous 
 
236 
 
 
 
THE PARIVRAJAKA 
 
and misery, the pride of his character will melt into a 
mood of infinite compassion. His strong faith in himself 
will be an instrument to re-establish in discouraged souls 
the confidence and faith they have lost. And the freedom 
of his conduct, based on mighty self-mastery, will shine 
brightly in the eyes of others, as a manifestation of the 
true liberty of the Ego." 8 
 
This meeting with suffering and human misery not 
only vague and general but definite misery, misery close 
at hand, the misery of his people, the misery of India 
was to be the flint upon the steel whence a spark would 
fly to set the whole soul on fire. And with this as its foun- 
dation stone, pride, ambition and love, faith, science and 
action, all his powers and all his desires were thrown into 
the mission of Human Service and united into one single 
flame : "A religion which will give us faith in ourselves, 
a national self-respect, and the power to feed and educate 
the poor and relieve the misery around us ... If you 
want to find God, serve man ! " 4 
 
But consciousness of his mission only came and took 
possession of him after years of direct experience, wherein 
he saw with his own eyes, and touched with his own hands 
the miserable and glorious body of humanity his mother 
India in all her tragic nakedness. 
 
We shall accompany him throughout the pilgrimage of 
his Wander jahre.* 
 
The first months, the first year at Baranagore were 
devoted to the mutual edification of the disciples. As yet 
not one of them was prepared to preach to men. They 
desired to concentrate on the search for mystic realization ; 
and the delights of the inner life made them turn away 
 
1 That is to say, the one Divine Being. (Quoted from the work 
of Saradananda : Divya Bhana.) 
 
* The Life of Vivekananda, Vol. II, Chapter LXXIII. Conver- 
sations before 1893. 
 
N.B. The Life of Vivekananda to which I shall constantly refer 
in the course of this book, is the classic work in India in four 
volumes, published by the Advaita Ashram of Mayavati, under the 
title : The Life of the Swami Vivekananda, by his 
Western Disciples. 1914-18. 
 
8 This, as is well known, is the title of a book 
Wander Years of Wilhelm Meister. (WaiiderjaJir^y^jj^y means 
wander years. TRANSLATOR.) 
 
237 
 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
their eyes from outside. Naren, who shared their longing 
for the Infinite, but who realized how dangerous for the 
passive soul was this elementary attraction, which acts 
like gravity on a falling stone Naren with whom dream 
itself was action would not allow them to be torpidly 
engulfed in meditation. He made this period of conventual 
seclusion a hive of laborious education, a High School of 
the spirit. The superiority of his genius and his knowledge 
had from the first given him a tacit but definite guidance 
over his companions, although many of them were older 
than he. Had not the last words of the Master when he 
took leave of them, been to Naren, 
 
" Take care of these boys ! " . . . 6 
 
Naren resolutely undertook the conduct of this young 
seminary, and did not permit it to indulge in the idleness 
of God. He kept its members ever on the alert, he harried 
their minds without any pity ; he read them the great 
books of human thought, he explained to them the evolution 
of the universal mind, he forced them to dry and impassioned 
discussion of all the great philosophical and religious prob- 
lems, he led them indefatigably towards the wide horizons 
of boundless Truth, which surpass all the limits of schools 
and races, and embrace and unify all particular truths. 7 
 
This synthesis of spirit fulfilled the promise of Rama- 
krishna's message of love. The unseen Master presided 
 
6 " Memoirs of the Disciple Ramakrishnananda " of the last 
moments of Ramakrishna, recently published in Messages from the 
East in the United States. (See Chapter XII of Book I.) 
 
f In this panorama of all the heroic and divine thoughts of human- 
ity, we must again notice the place of honour which seems to have 
been given to Christ and the Gospels. These Hindu monks kept 
Good Friday, and they sang the Canticles of St. Francis. Naren, 
who could never read the immortal story of the Crucifixion with- 
out tears, spoke to them of the Christian saints, the founders of the 
Western Orders. The Imitation of Jesus Christ was their bedside 
book together with the Bhagavadgita. Nevertheless there was 
never for a moment any question of enrolling themselves within 
the Church of Christ. They were and remain complete and un- 
compromising Vedantic Advaitists. But they incorporate in their 
faith all the faiths of the world. The waters of Jordan mingle 
with their Ganges. If any westerner waxes indignant at the abuse 
he sees in this connexion, we would ask him whether the mingling 
of the waters of the Tibur with the river of Palestine is any 
better. 
 
238 
 
 
 
THE PARIVRAJAKA 
 
over their meetings. They were able to place their in- 
tellectual labours at the service of his universal heart. 
 
But it is not in the nature of the religious Indian, not- 
withstanding Europe's belief in Asiatic immobility, to 
remain, like a French bourgeois, shut up in one place. 
Even those who practise contemplation have in their blood 
the secular instinct of wandering through the universe with- 
out fixed abode, without ties, independent and strangers 
wherever they go. This tendency to become a wandering 
monk, known in Hindu religious life by the special name 
of Parivrajaka, soon spurred some of the brethren of Baran- 
agore. From the moment of union the whole group had 
never assembled in its entirety. Two of its chiefs, Yogan- 
anda and Latu, were not present at the Christmas con- 
secration of 1886. Others followed Ramakrishna's widow 
to Brindaban. Others, like the young Saradananda, sud- 
denly disappeared, without saying where they were going. 
Naren, in spite of his anxiety to maintain the ties uniting 
the brotherhood, was himself tormented with the same 
desire to escape. How could this migratory need of the 
soul, this longing to lose itself in the Ocean of the air, 
like a carrier pigeon that stifles beneath the roof of the 
dovecote, be reconciled to the necessary fixity of a naissant 
Order ? It was arranged that a portion at least of the 
group should always remain at Baranagore, while the other 
brethren followed the " Call of the Forest. " And one of 
them one only Sasi (Soshi), never quitted the hearth. 
He was the faithful guardian of the Math, the immobile 
axis, the coping stone of the dovecote, whereto the vaga- 
bond wings returned. . . . 8 
 
Naren resisted the call topflight for two years. Apart 
 
8 1 have said above that Ramakrishna the free, differing in this 
respect from other Gurus, had not in the case of his disciples, car- 
ried out the ceremony of initiation in its usual forms. This was 
later a subject of reproach to Vivekananda. Naren and his com- 
panions supplemented it themselves about 1888 or 1889 by carrying 
it to the Viraja Homa, the traditional ceremony of Sannyasa at the 
monastery of Baranagore. Swami Ashokananda has also told me 
that another kind of Sannyasa is recognized in India, as superior 
to the formal Sannyasa consecrated in the usual way. He who 
feels a strong detachment from life and an intense thirst for God, 
can take the Sannyasa alone, even without any formal initiation. 
This was doubtless the case with the free monks of Baranagore. 
 
239 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
from short visits he remained at Baranagore until 1888. 
Then he left suddenly, not at first alone, but with one 
companion, and intense though his desire to escape, for 
two and a half years he always returned if he was recalled 
by his brethren, or by some unforeseen event. Then he 
was seized by the sacred madness to escape ; the longing 
suppressed for five years burst all bounds. In 1891, alone, 
without a companion, without a name, staff and bowl in 
hand as an unknown beggar, he was swallowed up for 
years in the immensity of India. 
 
But a hidden logic directed his distracted course. The 
immortal words : " Thou wouldest not have looked for 
Me if thou hadst not found Me " 9 were never so true as 
for those souls possessed by the hidden God, who struggle 
with Him in order to drag from Him the secret of the 
mission with which they are charged. 
 
Naren had no doubt that a mission awaited him ; his 
power, his genius spoke within him, and the fever of the 
age, the misery of the time, and the mute appeal rising 
all around him from oppressed India, the tragic contrast 
between the august grandeur of her ancient might of her 
unfulfilled destiny, and the degradation of the country 
betrayed by her children, the anguish of death and resur- 
rection, of despair and love, devoured his heart. But what 
was his mission to be ? Who was to dictate it to him ? 
The holy Master was dead, without having defined it for 
him. And among the living, was any 10 capable of en- 
lightening his path ? God alone. Let Him then speak. 
Why was He silent ? Why did He refuse to answer ? 
 
Naren went to find Him. 
 
Pascal. 
 
10 There was only one : a holy man, revered by the wisest in 
India, Pavhari Baba of Ghazipur. This great hermit, born of 
Brahmin parents at Benares, and very learned, knowing all Indian 
religions, and philosophies, the Dravidian languages and ancient 
Bengali, who had travelled in all countries, had retired into soli- 
tude and practised the strictest asceticism. The tranquillity of his 
intrepid soul, his heroic humility, which had taught itself to look 
the most terrible realities in the face with a calm smile, and which 
made him say in the midst of cruel sufferings caused by the bite 
of a cobra that " it was a message from his Beloved " fascinated 
the highest spirits of India. He had been visited by Keshab Chun- 
dar Sen ; and even during the life of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda 
 
240 
 
 
 
THE PARIVRAJAKA 
 
He suddenly left Calcutta in 1888 and went through 
Benares, Dayodia, Lucknow, Agra, Brindaban, Northern 
India and the Himalayas. Nothing is known of this journey 
or of the subsequent ones Naren kept the secret of his 
religious experiences except from the Memoirs of the 
Brethren who met him or accompanied him. 11 In 1888 
during the first of these pilgrimages after he had left Brinda- 
ban at Hatras, a small railway station, he quite uninten- 
tionally made his first disciple a man one minute a complete 
stranger, the next impelled by the attraction of his glance 
to leave all and follow him, and who remained faithful 
unto death : Sarat Chendra Gupta (who took the name 
of Sadananda). 12 They went about in the guise of beggars, 
 
had been to him (Pavhari recognized Ramakrishna's sanctity). 
Naren saw him again during the period of uncertainty following 
Ramakrishna's death ; he visited him daily, and was on the verge 
of becoming his follower, and demanding initiation of him. This 
torment of soul lasted several weeks ; he was torn between the 
two mystic appeals of Ramakrishna and Pavhari Baba. The latter 
would have satisfied his passion for the Divine gulf, wherein the 
individual soul renounces itself, and is entirely absorbed with no 
thought of return. And he would have appeased the remorse, 
always gnawing at Naren's heart, for turning from the world and 
social service ; for he professed the faith that the spirit can help 
others, even without the help of the body, and that the most intense 
action is that of the most intense concentration. What religious 
spirit has not heard this voice with its deadly attraction ? Naren 
was for twenty-one days within an ace of yielding. But for twenty- 
one nights the vision of Ramakrishna came to draw him back. 
Finally after an inner struggle of the utmost intensity, whose vicissi- 
tudes he has constantly refused to reveal, he made his choice for 
ever. He chose the service of God in man. 
 
11 Saradananda, Brahmananda, Premananda, Yogananda, Yuri- 
yananda, especially Akhandananda, who was with him the longest. 
 
11 In her Unpublished Memoirs, which have been shown to me, 
Sister Christine, Vivekananda's great American disciple, has left a 
precious account of this episode and the attractive personality of 
Sadananda, gleaned from Vivekananda's confidences to her. 
 
Sadananda was the young station master of Hatras. He saw 
Naren arrive at the station dying of hunger. He was captivated 
by his glance. " I followed two diabolical eyes," he said later. 
He made hirn come into his house ; and when his guest departed 
he followed him for life. 
 
Both young men were artists and poets. But, unlike his Master, 
with Sadananda the intellect held a secondary place, although he 
was well educated (he had studied Persian and been influenced 
 
241 R 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
often repulsed, at times almost dying of hunger and thirst, 
with no regard for caste and willing to smoke even the 
pipe of the pariah. Sadananda fell ill, and Naren carried 
him on his shoulders through dangerous jungles. Then he 
in turn fell ill and they were obliged to return to Calcutta. 
This very first journey had brought ancient India vividly 
before his eyes, eternal India, the India of the Vedas, with 
its race of heroes and gods, clothed in the glory of legend 
and history, Aryans, Moghuls and Dravidians, all one. 18 
At the first impact he realized the spiritual unity of India 
 
by Sufism). Like him he had a very vivid sense of beauty and 
enjoyed the delights of Nature and of the countryside. None re- 
mained more devoted to Vivekananda. He was impregnated with 
the being of the Master ; he had only to close his eyes, to meditate 
on his features and gestures to be immediately filled with the pro- 
fundities of his thought. Vivekananda described him as " the child 
of my spirit." Without having known Ramakrishna, he was by 
nature nearer to him than any of the others ; and episodes in his 
life recall that of the Paramahamsa as well as of several of our 
saints of the Golden Legend : he saw a buffalo being beaten : 
immediately the marks of the whip appeared upon his body ; he 
cared for the lepers, worshipping them as God ; for the whole of 
one night he held a man burning with smallpox against his body 
to refresh his fever. More than any other of the future disciples 
he had the democratic spirit (due partly, according to Sister Chris- 
tine, to Mohammedan influence). He was one of the first of the 
Mission to organize a corps of scavengers during the plague. He 
loved the Untouchables and shared their life. He was adored by 
young people. During his last illness a devoted band, who called 
themselves Sadananda's dogs, watched over him with passionate 
devotion ; they had left all for him, just as he had left all for Vive- 
kananda. He did not allow the usual relations of disciples and 
Guru to be established between them ; he was their companion. 
" I can only do one thing for you," he said to them. " That is to 
take you to the Swamiji." Although he could at times be severe 
he was always bubbling over with joy as his chosen name shows 
and he transmitted this joy to them. They ever hold him in loving 
memory. 
 
My readers will pardon this long note, which breaks the thread 
of the story to a certain extent. The preservation for pious hearts 
of the West of this " little flower " of India whose culling we owe 
to Sister Christine, full as it is of Franciscan grace, seemed to me 
more important than the exigencies of literary composition. 
 
11 The revelation of Moghul grandeur at Agra reduced him to 
tears. At Dayodia he re-lived the story of the Ramayana, and at 
Brindaban the childhood of Krishna. In the retreats of the Hima- 
layas he meditated on the Vedas. 
 
242 
 
 
 
THE PARIVRAJAKA 
 
and Asia and he communicated this discovery to the 
brethren of Baranagore. 
 
From his second journey in 1889 to Ghazipur, he seems 
to have brought back some intuition of the Gospel of 
Humanity, which the new democracies of the West were 
writing unconsciously and blindly. He told his brethren 
how " in the West the ancient ideal of divine right, which 
had formerly been the appanage of one single being, had 
gradually been recognized as the property of all without 
distinction of class, and that the human spirit had thus 
come to a perception of the divinity of Nature and of 
Unity." He saw and immediately proclaimed the necessity 
of introducing into India the same ideas which had been 
tried by America and Europe with such happy results. 
Thus from the first he exhibited that liberality and greatness 
of spirit, which seeks and desires the common good, the 
spiritual progress of all men by the united efforts of all 
men. 
 
The short journeys that followed in 1889 and 1890 to 
Allahabad and Ghazipur, still further enlightened this 
universal conception. During his interviews at Ghazipur 
he can be seen travelling towards the synthesis of Hindu 
faith and modern science, of the ideas of the Vedanta 
and the social realizations of the present day, of the pure 
Spirit and the innumerable Gods which are the " Lower 
ideas " of all religions and are necessary for human weakness ; 
for they are all true in their quality of phantoms of know- 
ledge, various methods and diverse stages in the development 
of the human spirit, which climbs slowly towards the summit 
of its being. 
 
These were as yet nothing 'but flashes, rough sketches 
of his future. But they were all being stored up and 
fermenting in his brain. A prodigious force was rising in 
this young man within the narrow bounds of his convent 
at Baranagore, of the daily round prescribed by duty and 
even of communion with his friends. It could no longer 
be contained. He was forced to break the ties that bound 
him, to cast off his chains, his way of life, his name, his 
body all that was Naren and to remake with the help 
of different ones another self wherein the giant which had 
grown up could breathe freely to be born again. This 
 
243 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
rebirth was to be Vivekananda. He was like a Gargantua 
rending asunder the swathing bands that were throttling 
him. ... It can no longer be described as the religious 
Call of the pilgrim, who bids farewell to his brother men in 
order to follow God ! This young athlete, reduced to the 
point of death by his unused powers, was driven forth by 
a vital instinct and betrayed into the brutal speech over 
which his pious disciples have drawn a veil. He said at 
Benares : 
 
" I am going away ; but I shall never come back until 
I can burst on society like a bomb, and make it follow me 
like a dog." 
 
We know how he himself vanquished these redoubtable 
demons, and turned them to the service of the humble in 
supreme humility, but we nevertheless rejoice at the con- 
templation of the savage forces of pride and ambition which 
suffocated him. For he suffered from that excess of power 
which insists on domination and within him there was a 
Napoleon. 
 
He accordingly broke loose at the beginning of July, 1890, 
this time for years, from the dear home of Baranagore, 
which he had founded, from the spiritual nest whereon 
Ramakrishna himself was brooding. His wings swept him 
away. He went first to ask for the blessing of the " Holy 
Mother" (Ramakrishna's widow) 14 for his long journey. 
He desired to cut himself free from all ties and to go into 
retreat in the Himalayas. But of all good things solitude 
(the treasure ! and terror of gregarious souls !) is the most 
difficult to achieve. Parents, friends, all would deny it. 
(Tolstoy knew this and could never attain it until the death- 
bed of Astapovo . . .) Social life makes a thousand claims 
 
14 Saradadevi, the good and simple woman, who -survived 
Ramakrishna by more than forty years, and Vivekananda by more 
than twenty, beloved and revered by all, kept the Master's sentiments 
with regard to the great disciple. One day Miss MacLeod (who 
told me the story) said to Saradadevi : " Your husband had the 
better part ; he stayed in India among his own people : that must 
have been all joy for him. The Mission of the Swami (Vivekananda) 
was much more difficult : he had a heroic part to play." " Yes/' 
Saradadevi replied simply. " Swami Vivekananda was the greater. 
Ramakrishna always said that he was the body and Vivekananda 
the head." I have quoted this remark, not because I share the 
the same view, but to show Ramakrishna's modesty. 
 
244 
 
 
 
THE PARIVRAJAKA 
 
on those who flee it. And how much more when the fugitive 
is still a young prisoner ! Naren discovered this to his cost. 
And also at the cost of those who loved him ! His brother 
monks were bent upon following him. He was obliged to 
break with them almost brutally. 15 Even so the tragic 
world would not allow him to forget it. The death of a 
sister found him in his solitude. The pitiful victim of a 
cruel society, she reminded him of the sacrificial fate of the 
Hindu woman and the sad problems of the life of his people 
which made it criminal for him to remain a disinterested 
spectator. By a chain of circumstances, which might be 
accounted fore-ordained, he was constantly torn from his 
Beato Solitude, Sola Beatitudo at the very moment when he 
thought he had at last attained it, and thrown back from 
the silent Himalayas to the plains filled with the noise and 
lust of mankind. As the result of these mental agitations 
added to fatigue, and privation, he had two serious illnesses 
at Srinagar and at Meerut at the foot of the Himalayas on 
the Ganges ; he almost died of diphtheria. The extreme 
weakness which followed made it still more difficult for him 
to achieve his great solitary journey. 
 
Nevertheless that journey was accomplished. If he was 
to die it should be on the way, and on his own way the 
way revealed to him by his God ! In February, 1891, in 
spite of his friends, he left Delhi alone. This was the 
great departure. Like a diver he plunged into the Ocean 
of India, and the Ocean of India covered his tracks. Among 
its flotsam and jetsam he was nothing more than one name- 
less Sannyasin in saffron robe among a thousand others. 
But the fires of genius burned in his eyes. He was a prince 
despite all disguise. 
 
16 Akhadananda accompanied him to the Himalayas ; he there 
fell ill. At Almora Naren found Saradananda and Tripananda. A 
little later Turiyananda. They attached themselves to him. He 
left them at Meerut near the end of January, 1891 ; their anxious 
affection followed him to Delhi. His anger was kindled and he 
ordered them to leave him. 
 
 
 
245 
 
 
 
II 
 
THE PILGRIM OF INDIA 
 
HIS great journey of two years through India, and 
then of three years round the world (was this his 
original intention ?), was the adequate reply of his instinct 
to the double exigencies of his nature : independence and 
service. He wandered, free from plan, caste, home, con- 
stantly alone with God. And there was no single hour of 
his life when he was not brought into contact with the 
sorrows, the desires, the abuses, the misery and the fever- 
ishness of living men, rich and poor, in town and field ; 
he became one with their lives ; the great Book of Life 
revealed to him what all the books in the libraries could 
not have done (for after all they are only collections), which 
even Ramakrishna's ardent love had only been able to see 
dimly as in a dream the tragic face of the present day, 
the God struggling in humanity the cry of the peoples 
of India and of the world for help and the heroic duty 
of the new Oedipus, whose task is to deliver Thebes from 
the talons of the Sphinx, or to perish with Thebes. 
 
Wander jahre. Lehrjahre. 1 What a unique education! 
. . . He was not only the humble little brother, who slept 
in stables or on the pallets of beggars, but he was on a 
footing of equality with ev'ery man, to-day an insulted 
beggar sheltered by pariahs, to-morrow the guest of princes, 
conversing on equal terms with Prime Ministers and Mahara- 
jahs, the brother of the oppressed bending over their misery, 
then probing the luxury of the great, awakening care for 
the public weal in their torpid hearts. He was as con- 
versant with the knowledge of the pandits as with the 
problems of industrial and rural economy whereby the life 
of the people is controlled, ever teaching, ever learning, 
 
1 " Years of travel." " Years of apprenticeship." (Goethe.) 
 
246 
 
 
 
THE PILGRIM OF INDIA 
 
gradually making himself the Conscience of India, its Unity 
and its Destiny. All of them were incarnate in him, and 
the world saw them in Vivekananda. 
 
His itinerary led him through Rajputana, Alwar (February 
to March, 1891), Jaipur, Ajmer, Khetri, Ahmedabad and 
Kathiawar (end of September), Junagath and Gujerat, 
Porbandar (a stay of between eight and nine months), 
Dvaraka, Palitana the city of temples close to the gulf of 
Khambhat, the state of Baroda, Khandwa, Poona, Bel- 
gaum (October, 1892), Bangalore in the state of Mysore, 
Cochin, Malabar, the state of Travancore, Trivandrur, 
Madura. . . . He travelled to Cape Comorin, the extreme 
point of the immense pyramid, where is the Benares of 
Southern India, Rameswaram, the Rome of the Ramayana, 
and beyond to Kanyakumari, the sanctuary of the Great 
Goddess (end of 1892). 
 
From North to South the ancient land of India was full 
of gods ; yet the unbroken chain of their countless arms 
formed only one God. He realized their unity of flesh and 
spirit. He realized it also in communion with the living 
of all castes and those outside caste. And he taught them 
to realize it. He took mutual understanding from the one 
to the other, to strong spirits, to the intellectuals obsessed 
with the abstract, he preached respect for images, and idol 
Gods, to young men the duty of studying the grand old 
books of the past ; the Vedas, the Puranas, the ancient 
annals, and still more the people of to-day to all a re- 
ligious love for Mother India and a passion to dedicate 
themselves to her redemption. 
 
He received no less than he gave. His vast spirit never 
for a single day failed to jviden its knowledge a and its 
experience, and it assimilated all the rivers of thought 
scattered and buried in the soil of India, for their source 
seemed identical to him. As far removed from the blind 
devotion of the orthodox, who were engulfed in the muddy 
stench of stagnant water, as from the paltry rationalism 
 
1 At Khetri he became the pupil of the foremost Sanskrit gram- 
marian of the time. At Ahmedabad he completed his knowledge 
of Mohammedan and Jain culture. At Porbandar he stayed three- 
quarters of a year, in spite of his vow as a wandering monk, to 
perfect his philosophical and Sanskrit studies with pandit sages ; 
he worked with Trigunakita, who translated the Vedas. 
 
247 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
of the reformers of the Brahmo Samaj, who with the best 
intentions were busied in drying up the mystic fountains 
of hidden energy, Vivekananda wished to preserve and to 
harmonize them all by draining the whole entangled reser- 
voir of the waters of a whole continent possessed by a 
deeply religious soul. 
 
He desired more than this. (Nobody with impunity can 
be the contemporary of the great engineers who cut a 
passage between oceans, and willy nilly, rejoin the hands 
of continents !) everywhere he carried with him the 
Imitation of Christ, and side by side with the Bhagavad, 
he spread the thought of Jesus ; 8 and he urged young people 
to study the science of the West. 4 
 
But the widening of his mind was not only in the realm 
of ideas. A revolution took place in his moral vision with 
regard to other men and his relations with them. If ever 
there was pride in a young man, coupled to intellectual 
intolerance, the contempt of the aristocrat for all that fell 
below his high ideal of purity, it was present in the young 
Narendra : 
 
" At twenty years of age (it is he himself speaking) I was 
the most unsympathetic, uncompromising fanatic ; I would 
not walk on the footpath on the theatre side of the streets 
in Calcutta/' 6 
 
During the first months of his pilgrimage when he was 
with the Maharajah of Khetri near Jaipur (April, 1891), a 
little dancer gave him all unwittingly a lesson in humility. 
When she appeared the scornful monk rose to go out. The 
prince begged him to remain. The little dancer sang : 
 
" O Lord, look not upon my evil qualities ! Thy name, 
 
1 But he was merciless towards the intolerance of the mission- 
aries, and never forgave them for it. The Christ whom he preached, 
opened His arms to all. 
 
4 During the beginning of his great journey at Alwar in Rajpu- 
tana (February to March, 1891), when he was hurt by the lack of 
a spirit of precision, of exactitude and of scientific criticism in 
Indian history. He set up the example of the West in opposition 
to it. He wished India to be inspired with its methods, so that a 
young school of Hindu historians might arise to devote themselves 
to resuscitating India's past. " That would be real national educa- 
tion; and thus a true national spirit would be awakened." 
 
1 Letter of July 6, 1896. He added, "At 33 I can live in the 
same house with prostitutes.' 1 
 
248 
THE PILGRIM OF INDIA 
 
Lord, is Same-sightedness. Make of us both the same 
Brahman ! One piece or iron is in the image in the temple, 
and another the knife in the hand of the butcher. But 
when they touch the philosopher's stone both alike turn 
into gold. So, Lord, look not upon my evil qualities ! Thy 
name, Lord, is Same-sightedness ! . . . 
 
" One drop of water is in the sacred Jumna and another 
is foul in the ditch by the roadside. But when they fall 
into the Ganges both alike become holy. So, Lord, do not 
look upon my evil qualities. Thy name, Lord, is Same- 
sightedness. . . ." 6 
 
Naren was completely overwhelmed. The confident 
faith expressed in the humble song affected him for life. 
Many years later he recalled it with emotion. 
 
One by one his prejudices disappeared, even those which 
he had considered to be most deeply rooted. In the Hima- 
layas he lived among Thibetan races, who practise polyandry. 
He was the guest of a family of six brothers, who shared 
the same wife ; and in his neophytic zeal he tried to show 
them their immorality. But it was they who were scan- 
dalized by his lessons ; " What selfishness ! " they said. 
" To wish to keep one woman all to oneself ! . . ." Truth 
at the bottom of the mountain and error at the top . . . 
He realized the relativity of virtue at least of those virtues 
having the greatest traditional sanction. Moreover a 
transcendental irony, as in the case of Pascal, taught him 
to broaden his moral conception when he judged of good 
and evil in a race or in an age, according to the standards 
of that race or that age. 
 
Again he kept company with thieves of the most degraded 
caste, and came to recognize even in highway robbers 
" Sinners who were potential saints." 7 Everywhere he 
shared the privations and the insults of the oppressed 
classes. In Central India he lived with a family of outcast 
sweepers. Amid such lowly people who cower at the feet 
of society he found spiritual treasures, while their misery 
choked him. He could not bear it. He sobbed, 
 
" O my country 1 O my country 1 ..." 
 
* The poem of a Vaishnavite saint : Suradas. 
T He met a thief who had plundered his holy Guru, Pavhari Baba, 
and then touched with repentance had become a monk. 
 
249 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
when he learnt from the papers that a man had died of 
hunger at Calcutta. He asked himself as he beat his 
chest : 
 
" What have we done, we so-called men of God, the 
Sannyasins, what have we done for the masses ? " 
 
He recalled Ramakrishna's rough words. 
 
" Religion is not for empty bellies." 
 
And waxing impatient with the intellectual speculations 
of an egoistic faith, he made it the first duty of religion 
" to care for the poor and to raise them." He imposed 
this duty on the rich, on officials, and on princes : 
 
" Is there none among you who can give a life for the 
service of others ? Let the study of the Vedanta, and the 
practice of meditation, be left over to the future life ! Let 
this body be consecrated to the service of others ! And 
then I shall know that you have not come to me in vain." 8 
 
On a future day his pathetic accents were to sound this 
sublime utterance : 
 
" May I be born and reborn again and suffer a thousand 
miseries if only I am able to worship the only God in whom 
I believe, the sum-total of all souls, and above all, my God 
the wicked, my God the afflicted, my God the poor of all 
the races 1 ..." 
 
At this date, 1892, it was the misery under his eyes, the 
misery of India, which filled his mind to the exclusion of 
every other thought. It pursued him, like a tiger following 
its prey, from the North to the South in his flight across 
India. It consumed him during sleepless nights. At Cape 
Comorin it caught and held him in its jaws. On that 
occasion he abandoned body and soul to it. He dedicated 
his life to the unhappy m^ses. 
 
But how could he help them ? He had no money and 
time was pressing, and the princely gifts of one or two 
Maharajas or the offerings of several groups of well-wishers 
could only nourish a thousandth part of the most urgent 
needs. Before India woke up from her ataraxy and 
organized herself for the common good, the ruin of India 
would be consummated. He lifted up his eyes to the ocean, 
to the land beyond the seas. He must appeal to the whole 
 
The notation of these words belongs to a later date. But the 
sentiment that inspired them belongs to this time. 
 
250 
 
 
 
THE PILGRIM OF INDIA 
 
world. The whole world had need of India. The health 
of India, the death of India was its concern as well. Could 
her immense spiritual reserves be allowed to be destroyed 
as so many others had been, Egypt and Chaldaea, which 
long afterwards men struggled to exhume when nothing 
was left but debris, their soul being dead for ever ? . . . 
An appeal from India to Europe and to America began to 
take shape in the mind of the solitary thinker. It was at 
the end of 1891 between Junagad and Porbandar that he 
appears to have thought of it for the first time. At Por- 
bandar, where he began to learn French, a pandit advised 
him to go to the West, where his thought would be better 
understood than in his own country : 
 
" Go and take it by storm and then return ! " 
At Khanwa in the early autumn of 1892 he heard of a 
Parliament of Religions to be held during the following 
year at Chicago, and his first idea was how he might take 
part in it. At the same time he did not allow himself to 
take any steps toward the realization of this project and 
he refused to accept subscriptions for the purpose, until he 
had achieved the vow of his great pilgrimage round India. 
At Bangalore towards the end of October he specifically 
declared to the Maharajah his intention of going to ask the 
West " for the means to ameliorate the material condition 
of India/' and to take it in exchange the Gospel of the 
Vedanta. At the end of 1892 his mind was made up. 
 
At that moment he found himself at the " land's end" 
of India, at the extreme southern point where Hanuman 
the Monkey God made his fabulous leap. But Vivekananda 
was a man as we are and could not follow the ways of demi- 
Gods. He had traversed th^ vast land of India upon the 
soles of his feet. For two years his body had been in 
constant contact with its great body ; he had suffered from 
hunger, from thirst, from murderous nature and insulting 
man ; when he arrived at Cape Comorin he was exhausted, 
but, having no money to pay for a boat to take him to the 
end of his pilgrimage, to the Holy of Holies, Kanyakumari, 
he flung himself into the sea, and swam across the shark- 
infested strait. At last his task was at an end, and then, 
looking back as from the top of a mountain, he embraced 
the whole of the India he had just traversed, and the world 
 
251 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
of thought that had beset him during his long wanderings. 
For two years he had lived as in a seething cauldron, con- 
sumed with a fever ; he had carried " a soul on fire/ 1 he 
was a " tempest." 9 Like criminals of old who suffered 
the torture of water, he felt himself submerged by the 
torrents of energy he had accumulated, the walls of his 
being were crumbling beneath their flood. . . ." 10 And 
when he stopped on the terrace of the tower he had just 
climbed at the very edge of the earth with the panorama 
of the world spread before his eyes, the blood pounded in 
his ears like the sea at his feet ; he almost fell. It was the 
supreme assault of the gods striving within him. When 
the struggle was over, his first battle had been won. He 
had seen the path he was to follow. His mission was chosen. 
 
He swam back to the continent of India. From the 
opposite coast he went northwards. On foot by Ramnad 
and Pondicherry he came to Madras. And there in the 
first weeks of 1893, he publicly proclaimed his wish to 
conduct a Mission in the West. 11 His fame, contrary to 
his own desire, had already spread abroad : he was besieged 
by visitors in this intellectual and vital city where he stayed 
on two occasions, and it was in Madras that he founded 
his first group of devoted disciples, who dedicated them- 
selves to him and who never left him ; after his departure 
they continued to support him with their letters and their 
faith ; and he, from countries far away, kept his direction 
over them. His burning love for India awakened passionate 
echoes in their hearts, and by their enthusiasm the strength 
of his own conviction was increased tenfold. He preached 
against all seeking after personal salvation. It was rather 
public salvation that ought t(j be sought, the regeneration of 
the mother country, the resurrection of the spiritual powers 
of India and their diffusion throughout the universe. . . . 
 
" The time is ripe. The faith of the Rishis must become 
dynamic. It must come forth of itself." 
 
f It was Abhedananda, who, meeting him in October, 1893, in 
the state of Baroda, described him thus. 
 
10 " I feel a mighty power ! It is as if I were about to blaze 
forth. There are so many powers in me ! It appears to me as if 
I could revolutionize the world." 
 
11 This was the title of a lecture he delivered at Hyderabad in 
February, 1893 " My Mission to the West." 
 
252 
 
 
 
THE PILGRIM OF INDIA 
 
Nabobs and bankers offered him money for his journey 
overseas, but he refused it. He asked the disciples who 
were collecting subscriptions to appeal rather to the middle 
classes : for 
 
" I am going on behalf of the people and the poor." 
 
As he had done at the beginning of his pilgrimage he 
asked the blessing of the Holy Mother for the more distant 
journey. And she sent him Ramakrishna's as well, for he 
had delivered it to her for the beloved disciple in a dream. 
 
It does not appear that he had written to his spiritual 
brethren at Baranagore : (doubtless he thought that their 
contemplative souls, used to the warmth of the nest, would 
be terrified at the thought of social service and evangelizing 
journeys in the countries of the Gentiles ; such ideas dis- 
turbed the pious calm of souls who were pre-occupied with 
their own salvation without troubling about others). But 
chance decreed that almost on the eve of his departure at 
Mount Abu station, near Bombay, he met two of them, 
Brahmananda and Turiyananda ; and he told them with 
pathetic passion, whose percussions reached Baranagore, 12 
the imperious call of suffering India which forced him 
to go: 
 
" I have now travelled all over India . . . But alas ! it 
was agony to me, my brothers, to see with my own eyes the 
terrible poverty and misery of the masses, and I could not 
restrain my tears ! It is now my firm conviction that it 
is futile to preach religion amongst them without first trying 
to remove their poverty and their sufferings. It is for this 
reason to find more means for the salvation of the poor 
of India that I am now going to America/' 13 
 
11 It does not seem, however, that the monks of Baranagore were 
tempted to follow his example. Even on his triumphal return from 
America, they found it difficult to yield to his arguments for sub- 
ordinating and even sacrificing, if need arose, the contemplative life 
to social service. Only one, Akhandananda (Gangadhar), moved 
by the words Brahmananda and Turiyananda had brought back, 
went during 1894 to open schools at Khetri and to work at the 
education of the masses. 
 
11 These words quoted in the great Life of Vivekananda are 
completed by Turiyananda's Reminiscences, which Swami Jnane- 
swarananda took down and published in the Morning Star in 
January 31, 1926 : 
 
Brahmananda and Turiyananda were withdrawn on Mount Abu, 
 
253 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
He went to Khetri, where his friend the Maharajah gave 
him his Diwan (Prime Minister) to escort him to Bombay, 
where he embarked. At the moment of departure he put 
 
where they were practising a very strict " Tapasya " (practice of 
meditation and asceticism). They did not expect to meet Naren. 
They had seen him at Abu Rd. Station several weeks before his 
departure. Naren told them his plans, his hesitations, and his 
conviction that the Parliament of Religions was willed by God to 
prepare his success. Turiyananda recalled each one of his words 
and the tone of his voice : 
 
" Hari Bhai," Naren cried, his face red with his rising blood, " I 
cannot understand your so-called religion 1 . . ." 
 
With a profound expression of sadness and intense emotion 
through all his being, he pressed a trembling hand upon his heart 
and added : 
 
" But my heart has grown much, much larger, and I have 
learnt to feel (the sufferings of others). Believe me I feel it very 
sadly 1 " 
 
His voice was choked with feeling. He was silent. Tears 
streamed down his cheeks. 
 
Turiyananda, in giving this account, was himself deeply moved, 
and his eyes filled with tears : 
 
" You can imagine," he said, " what went through my spirit 
when I heard these pathetic words and saw the majestic sadness 
of the Swamiji. ' Are these not/ I thought, ' the very words and 
feelings of the Buddha/ And I remember that a long time before 
when he had gone to Buddha Gaya to meditate under the Boddhi 
tree, he had had a vision of the Lord Buddha, who entered into his 
body ... I could clearly see that the whole suffering of humanity 
had penetrated his palpitating heart. Nobody, continued Turiya- 
nanda with passion, nobody could understand Vivekananda unless 
he saw at least a fraction of the volcanic feelings which were in 
him. 
 
Turiyananda told of another scene of the same kind, at which 
he was present after Vivekananda had come back from America 
probably in the house of Balaram at Baghazar (Calcutta) : 
 
" I had gone to see him and I found him pacing the verandah 
like a caged lion. He was deep in thought and did not notice my 
presence. . . . He began to hum under his breath the celebrated 
and pathetic song of Mirabhai. And the tears welled up in his 
eyes. He stopped and leaned against the balustrade, and hid his 
face in his two palms. His voice became more distinct and he sang, 
repeating several times : 
 
" Oh, nobody understands my sorrow I " 
 
And again : 
 
" Only he who suffers knows the anguish of sorrow I . . ." 
 
His voice pierced me through and through like an arrow. I 
could not understand the cause of his affliction. . . . Then sud- 
denly, I understood. It was his rending sympathy which made 
 
254 
 
 
 
THE PILGRIM OF INDIA 
 
on, with the robe of red silk and ochre turban, the name 
of Vivekananda, which he was about to impose upon the 
world. 14 
 
him often shed tears of burning blood. And the world would never 
have known it . . ." 
 
But addressing his listeners, Turiyananda said : 
" Do you think that these tears of blood were shed in vain ? 
No 1 Each one of these tears, shed for his country, every inflamed 
whisper of his mighty heart, gave birth to troops of heroes, who 
will shake the world with their thoughts and their deeds/' 
 
14 I have noted on pages 4 and 4-b the origin of this name, which 
was given him by the Maharajah. During his journey in India, he 
bore so many different names that, just as he desired, he usually 
passed by unobserved. Many of those who met him had no sus- 
picion of his identity. It was so at Poona in October, 1892 ; Tilak, 
the famous savant and Hindu political leader, took him at first for 
a wandering monk of no importance and began by being ironical; 
then, struck with his replies revealing his great mind and know- 
ledge, he received him into his house for ten days without ever 
knowing his real name. It was only later when the newspapers 
brought him from America the echoes of the triumph of Viveka- 
nanda, and a description of the conqueror, that he recognized the 
anonymous guest who had dwelt beneath his roof. 
 
 
 
255 
 
 
 
Ill 
 
 
 
THE GREAT JOURNEY TO THE WEST AND THE 
PARLIAMENT OF RELIGIONS 
 
 
 
journey was in truth an astonishing adventure. 
The young Swami went into it at random and with 
his eyes shut. He had heard vaguely of a Parliament of 
Religions to be opened some day somewhere in America ; 
and he decided to go to it although neither he, nor his 
disciples nor his Indian friends, students, pandits, ministers 
or Maharajahs had taken any trouble to find out about it. 
He knew nothing, neither the exact date, nor the conditions 
of admission. He did not take a single credential with him. 
He went straight ahead with complete assurance, as if it 
was enough for him to present himself at the right time 
God's time. And although the Maharajah of Khetri had 
taken his ticket on the boat for him, and despite his protests 
had provided him with a beautiful robe, which was to 
fascinate American idlers no less than his eloquence, neither 
he nor anybody else had considered the climatic conditions 
and customs : he froze on the boat when he arrived in 
Canada in his costume of Indian pomp and ceremony. 
 
He left Bombay on May 31, 1893, and went by way of 
Ceylon, Penang, Singapore, Hongkong, and then visited 
Canton and Nagasaki. Thece he went on foot to Yokohama, 
seeing Osaka, Kioto and Tokyo. Everywhere, in China as 
in Japan, his attention was attracted by all that might 
confirm his hypothesis his conviction alike of the religious 
influence of ancient India over the Empires of the Far East 
and of the spiritual unity of Asia. 1 At the same time the 
 
1 He was struck when he visited the Chinese temples, conse- 
crated by the first Buddhist Emperor, to find Sanskrit manuscripts 
written in Bengal characters. He noticed the same in Japan in 
the temples inscriptions of mantras (sacred texts) in Sanskrit in 
ancient Bengal characters. 
 
256 
 
 
 
THE GREAT JOURNEY TO THE WEST 
 
thought of the ills from which his country was suffering 
never left him ; and the sight of the progress achieved by 
Japan reopened the wound. 
 
He went from Yokohama to Vancouver ; thence by train 
he found himself towards the middle of July in a state of 
bewilderment at Chicago. The whole way was strewn with 
his feathers, for he was a marked prey for the fleecer : he 
could be seen from afar ! At first like a great child he 
wandered gazing, mouth agape, in the world's fair, the 
Universal Exhibition of Chicago. Everything was new to 
him and both surprised and stupefied him. He had never 
imagined the power, the riches, the inventive genius of this 
Western world. Being of a stronger vitality and more 
sensitive to the appeal of force than a Tagore or a Gandhi, 
who were oppressed by the frenzy of movement and noise, 
by the whole European-American (especially American) 
mechanism, Vivekananda was at his ease in it, at least at 
first ; he succumbed to its exciting intoxication, and his 
first feeling was of juvenile acceptance ; his admiration 
knew no bounds. For twelve days he filled his eager eyes 
with this new world. Then he bethought himself to go to 
the Enquiry Bureau of the Parliament of Religions . . . 
What a shock ! He found out that the Parliament did not 
open until after the first of September and that it was too 
late for the registration of delegates moreover, that no 
registration would be accepted without official references. 
He had none, he was unknown, without credentials from 
any known group ; and his purse was nearly empty ; it 
would not allow him to wait until the opening of the 
Congress ... He was overwhelmed. He cabled his 
distress to friends in Madras so that some official religious 
society might make him a grant. But official societies 
do not pardon independence, which has had the audacity 
to leave their ranks. The chief of this society sent the 
reply : 
 
" Let the devil die of cold ! " 2 
 
The devil neither died nor gave up ! He threw himself 
 
upon fate, and instead of hoarding in inaction the few 
 
dollars remaining to him, he spent them in visiting Boston. 
 
Fate helped him. Fate always helps those who know how 
 
1 More is said of this later. 
 
257 S 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
to help themselves. A Vivekananda never passed any- 
where unnoticed but fascinated even while he was unknown. 
In the Boston train, his appearance and conversation struck 
a fellow traveller, a rich Massachusetts lady who questioned 
him and then interested herself in him, invited him to her house, 
introduced him to the Hellenist, J. H. Wright, professor at 
Harvard : the latter was at once struck by the genius of 
this young Hindu and put himself entirely at his disposal ; 
he insisted that Vivekananda should represent Hinduism 
at the Parliament of Religions and wrote to the President 
of the Committee. He offered the penniless pilgrim a rail- 
way ticket to Chicago, and letters of recommendation to 
the Commission for finding lodgings. In short, all his 
difficulties were removed. 
 
Vivekananda returned to Chicago. The train arrived 
late ; and the dazed young man, who had lost the address 
of the Committee, did not know where to go. Nobody 
would deign to instruct a coloured man. He saw a big 
empty box in a corner of the station, and slept in it. In 
the morning he went to discover the way, begging from 
door to door as a Sannyasin. But he was in a city that 
knows, Panurge-like, a thousand and one ways of making 
money except one, the way of St. Francis, the vagrancy 
of God. It must be added that he found himself in a 
purely German-speaking district where nobody understood 
him ; they treated him as a negro and shut the door in his 
face. After having wandered for a long time, he sat down 
exhausted in the street. He was remarked from a window 
opposite and asked whether he were not a delegate to the 
Parliament of Religions. He was invited in ; and once 
more fate found for him o^e who was later numbered 
amongst his most faithful American followers. 8 When he 
had rested he was taken to the Parliament, and he remained 
during its sessions in the house of his rescuer. 
 
His adventurous journey, which had almost ended dis- 
astrously, brought him on this occasion into port, but not 
for rest. Action called him, for now that fate had done its 
worst it had to give place to resolution ! The unknown of 
yesterday, the beggar, the man despised for his colour by 
a mob wherein the dregs of more than half a dozen of the 
 
Mrs. Hale. 
258 
 
 
 
THE GREAT JOURNEY TO THE WEST 
 
peoples of the world meet at the first glance was to impose 
his sovereign genius. 
 
On Monday, September n, 1893, the first session of the 
Parliament was opened. In the centre presided Cardinal 
Gibbons. Round him to the right and left were grouped 
the Oriental delegates : Protap Chunder Mazoomdar, 4 the 
chief of the Brahmosamaj, an old friend of Vivekananda, 
representing with Nagarkar of Bombay the Indian theists, 
Bharmapala, representing the Buddhists of Ceylon ; Gandhi, 6 
representing the Jains ; Chakravati, representing with 
Annie Besant the Theosophical Society. But amongst them 
all it was the young man who represented nothing, and 
everything the man belonging to no sect but rather to 
India as a whole, who drew the glance of the thousand 
present. 6 His fascinating face, his noble stature and the 
gorgeous apparel 7 which heightened the effect of this 
apparition from a legendary world hid his own emotion. 
He made no secret of it. It was the first time that he had 
had to speak before such an assembly ; and as the delegates, 
presented one by one, had to announce themselves in public 
in a brief harangue, Vivekananda let his turn go by hour 
after hour until the end of the day. 8 
 
But then his speech was like a tongue of flame. Among 
the grey wastes of cold dissertation it fired the souls of the 
listening throng. Hardly had he pronounced the very 
simple opening words : 
 
" Sisters and brothers of America ! . . ." 
than some of them got up in their places and applauded. 
He wondered whether he really spoke of his own volition. 
He was certainly the first to cast off the formalism of the 
Congress and to speak to the masses in the language for 
 
4 See p. 78. 
 
5 Naturally this was not the same as our M. K. Gandhi, who 
about that time was landing in South Africa. But his family had 
intimate relations with the Jains and it may well have been that 
the Gandhi of the Parliament of Religions was a distant connexion. 
 
The American Press testified the truth of this. 
 
7 His red robe drawn in at the waist by an orange cord, his 
great yellow turban, accentuated the raven black of his hair, his 
olive complexion, his dark eyes, his red lips. (Description of the 
papers.) 
 
8 Let us add that the improvident one had prepared nothing, 
while the others read from a written text. 
 
259 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
which they were waiting. Silence fell again. He greeted 
the youngest of the nations in the name of the most ancient 
monastic order in the world the Vedic order of Sannyasins. 
He presented Hinduism as the mother of religions, who had 
taught them the double precept : 
 
" Accept and understand one another ! " 
 
He quoted two beautiful passages from the sacred books : 
 
" Whoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I 
reach him." 
 
" All men are struggling through paths which in the end 
lead to Me." 
 
Each of the other orators had spoken of his God, of the 
God of his sect. He he alone spoke of all their Gods, 
and embraced them all in the universal Being. It was the 
breath of Ramakrishna, breaking down the barriers through 
the mouth of his great disciple. The Parliament of Religions 
gave the young orator an ovation. 
 
During the ensuing days he spoke again ten or eleven 
times. 9 Each time he repeated with new arguments but 
with the same force of conviction his thesis of a universal 
Religion without limit of time or space, uniting the whole 
Credo of the human spirit, from the enslaved fetishism of 
the savage to the most liberal creative affirmations of 
modern science. He harmonized them into a magnificent 
 
9 Both at the plenary sessions of the Parliament and at the 
scientific sections which were affiliated to it. His principal disser- 
tations were on the following subjects : 
 
1. " Why we disagree." (He there denounced the insularity of 
 
different religious points of view, which is the source of 
fanaticism.) 
 
2. " Religion not the crying need of India." (But bread. An 
 
appeal for help for all^his people who were dying.) 
 
3. September 22. " Vedantic Philosophy." 
 
4. September 23. " Orthodox Hinduism and Modern Religions 
 
of India." 
 
5. September 25. " The Essence of the Hindu Religion." 
 
6. September 26. " Buddhism, the fulfilment of Hinduism." 
 
And four other Lectures. 
But the most famous discourses were : 
 
11. September 19. The most famous Paper on Hinduism, 
 
although he was its sole universal representative at the 
Congress without distinction of sect. We shall return to 
it later when we examine Vivekananda's thought. 
 
12. September 27. Address at the Final Session of the Congress. 
 
260 
 
 
 
THE GREAT JOURNEY TO THE WEST 
 
synthesis, which far from extinguishing the hope of a single 
one, helped all hopes to grow and flourish according to their 
own proper nature. 10 There was to be no other dogma but 
the divinity inherent in man and his capacity for indefinite 
evolution. 
 
" Offer such a religion and all the nations will follow you. 
Asoka's council u was a council of the Buddhist faith. 
Akbar's, 12 though more to the purpose, was only a parlour 
meeting. It was reserved for America to proclaim to all 
quarters of the globe that the Lord is in every religion. 
 
"May he who is the Brahmin of the Hindus, the Ahura 
Mazda of the Zoroastrians, the Buddha of the Buddhists, 
the Jehovah of the Jews, the Father in Heaven of the 
Christians, give strength to you. . . , 18 The Christian is 
not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a 
Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate 
the spirit of the others and yet preserve its individuality 
and grow according to its own law of growth . . . The 
Parliament of Religions . . . has proved . . . that holiness, 
purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of 
any church in the world, and that every system has produced 
men and women of the most exalted character . . . Upon 
the banner of every religion will soon be written in spite 
of ... resistance : ' Help and Not Fight.' ' Assimilation 
and not Destruction/ ' Harmony and Peace and Not 
Dissension. 1 " " 
 
The effect of these powerful words was immense. Over 
the heads of the official representatives of the Parliament, 
they were addressed to all, and appealed to outside thought. 
Vivekananda's fame at once spread abroad ; and India as 
a whole benefited. The American Press recognized him : 
 
10 But the young Hinduist, convinced in spite of himself of the 
superiority of his own ideal, presented Hinduism in its essentials, 
but rejuvenated and purified of its degenerate parts, as the universal 
religion of which he spoke. 
 
11 The Council of Patalipura, to which the Emperor Asoka con- 
voked the Buddhists about 253 B.C. 
 
11 The great Moghul Emperor of the sixteenth century (1556- 
1605), who, abjuring Islam, tried to found with the agreement of 
the Hindus, Jains, Musulmans, Parsis, and even Christians, eclectic 
rationalism, which was to become an imperial religion. 
11 Paper on Hinduism. (September 19.) 
14 Address at the Final Session. (September 27.) 
 
26l 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
"He is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament 
of Religions. After hearing him, we feel how foolish it is 
to send missionaries to this learned nation." 16 
 
It can be imagined that such an avowal did not sound 
sweetly in the ears of Christian missionaries, and Vive- 
kananda's success roused bitter rancour amongst them, 
which did not stop short of the use of the most dishonourable 
weapons. It sharpened no less the jealousy of certain 
Hindu representatives, who saw themselves put in the 
shade by this " wandering monk, 11 without title or ties. 
Theosophy in particular, which Vivekananda did not spare, 
never forgave him. 16 
 
What did he think of his victory ? He wept over it. 
The wandering monk saw that his free solitary life with 
God was at an end. Is there any truly religious soul who 
does not sympathize with his regrets? He had himself 
desired it ... or rather he had been desired by the un- 
known force, that had dictated his mission . . . But there 
was always the other inner voice, which said to him : 
" Renounce ! Live in God ! " He never could satisfy the 
one without partially denying the other. Hence the periodic 
crises traversed by this stormy genius, and the torments, 
which, apparently contradictory but really logical, can never 
be understood by single-minded spirits, by those who, 
having only one thought in their heads, make of their 
poverty an obligatory virtue, and who call the mighty 
and pathetic struggling towards harmony of souls too richly 
 
11 The New York Herald. The Boston Evening Post stated that 
he was " the great favourite of the Parliament." It was only neces- 
sary for him to cross the platform to be greeted with acclamations. 
And the only way of keeping tne public at the meetings, for their 
attention often wearied, was to announce that Vivekananda would 
speak at the end. 
 
li In an address at Madras on his return from America, " My 
Plan of Campaign," Vivekananda unmasked all those who had 
attacked him, and told the Theosophical Society sharply what he 
thought of them. See further, Note at the end of the Volume, 
where we shall give the text and treat of the question of Viveka- 
nanda's relations with the Theosophists. The reader may also con- 
sult the Account of the Journey of a Philosopher, by Count Keyserling, 
the chapter on Adyar, the Headquarters in India of the Theosophical 
Society, where the spirit of the society is impregnated with singular 
narrowness of view. 
 
262 
 
 
 
THE GREAT JOURNEY TO THE WEST 
 
endowed, either confusion or duplicity. Vivekananda was 
and will always be the butt of such malevolent interpre- 
tations which his high pride made no attempt to excuse. 
 
But his complexities at this [time were not only of the 
spirit. They were inherent in the situation itself. After 
as before success (and perhaps even more so) his task was 
a difficult one. Having nearly succumbed to poverty, he 
was now in danger of being overwhelmed by riches. Ameri- 
can snobbery threw itself upon him, and, in its first flush, 
threatened to smother him with its luxury and vanities. 
Vivekananda grew almost physically sick from this excess 
of money. At night in his bedroom he gave vent to cries 
of despair, and rolled on the ground when he thought of 
the people who were dying of hunger. 
 
" O Mother/' he groaned, " What have I to do with 
fame when my people are lying in misery ! . . ." 
 
In order to serve the cause of his unfortunate India 
and to free himself from the tutelage of his rich protectors, 
he accepted the offer of a Lecture Bureau for a tour of the 
United States : The East and Middle West, Chicago, Iowa, 
Desmoines, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Detroit, Boston, Cam- 
bridge, Baltimore, Washington, New York, etc. But this 
proved a risky method ; for it was a mistake to imagine 
that he, like so many other lecturers, was going to buy 
applause and dollars by burning incense under the nose 
of the American public. 
 
His first feeling of attraction and admiration for the 
formidable power of the young republic had faded. Vive- 
kananda almost at once fell foul of the brutality, the 
inhumanity, the littleness of spirit, the narrow fanaticism, 
the monumental ignorance, the crushing incomprehension, 
so frank and sure of itself tfith regard to all who thought, 
who believed, who regarded life differently from the paragon 
nation of the human race . . . And he had no patience. 
He hid nothing. He stigmatized the vices and crimes of 
Western civilization, with its characteristics of violence, 
pillage, and destruction. Once when he was to speak at 
Boston on a beautiful religious subject particularly dear 
to him, 17 he felt such repulsion at sight of the audience, 
the artificial and cruel crowd of men of affairs and of the 
17 Ramakrishnsu 
263 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
world, that he refused to yield them the key of his sanctuary, 
and brusquely changing the subject, he inveighed furiously 
against a civilization represented by such foxes and wolves. 
. . , 18 The scandal was terrific. Hundreds noisily left the 
hall, and the Press was furious. 
 
He was especially bitter against false Christianity and 
religious hypocrisy. 
 
" With all your brag and boasting where has your Christi- 
anity succeeded without the sword ? Yours is a religion 
preached in the name of luxury. It is all hypocrisy that 
I have heard in this country. All this prosperity, all this 
from Christ ! Those who call upon Christ care for nothing 
but to amass riches ! Christ would not find a stone on 
which to lay His head among you . . . You are not 
Christians. Return to Christ ! . . ." 
 
An explosion of anger was the answer to this scornful 
lesson, and from that moment he had always at his heels 
a band of clergymen, who followed him with invective 
and accusation, even going so far as to spread infamous 
calumnies of his life and behaviour in America and India. 19 
No less shameful was the action of certain Hindu representa- 
tives of rival societies, who were offended by Vivekananda's 
glory, and did not scruple to spread the base charges started 
by malevolent missionaries. And in their turn, the Christian 
missionaries used the weapons provided by the jealous 
Hindus, 20 and denounced the free Sannyasin in India with 
 
11 1 have heard a similar scene related about a great Hindu poet, 
whom we venerate. He was invited to the United States to address 
a meeting on the subject of a work very near to his heart. But 
when he saw the audience, who were prepared to subscribe to it, he 
was so revolted at the sight that he attacked them and their stifling 
material civilization. Hence he himself destroyed the work whose 
success seemed assured. 
 
lf It goes without saying that they produced the classic accusa- 
tion of Anglo-Saxon countries, seduction 1 In order to stop the 
false rumour spread by a vulgar-minded clergyman, that he had 
wronged a servant dismissed by the Governor of Michigan, letters 
of public denial (March, 1895) were necessary from the Governor's 
wife, testifying to the moral dignity of Vivekananda. But no denials 
ever repair the damage done by unscrupulous lies. 
 
10 Some of the Brahmos treated as blasphemy certain of Vive- 
kananda's expositions of Vedantism in America : his " pretensions 
to divinity " (that is to, say to the divinity of the human soul), 
 
264 
 
 
 
THE GREAT JOURNEY TO THE WEST 
 
almost comic zeal because in America he no longer kept 
to the strict regime prescribed by orthodox Hinduism. 21 
Vivekananda with disgust saw the scum of the rancorous 
wave raised by the devotees returning to him from India 
in the frightened letters of his disciples. And with what 
scorn he flung it back in the face of those who had be- 
spattered him with it ! 22 
 
A letter from one of his American disciples, Swami 
Kripananda, 28 depicts in retrospect his tribulations in the 
United States. 
 
" This hotbed of pseudo-religious monstrosities, devoured 
by a morbid thirst for the abnormal, for the occult, for the 
exceptional whence a senseless credulity leads to the 
 
his " denial of sin " (which came to him from Ramakrishna), his 
" evolutionism/' his " Western ideas introduced into Hinduism," 
etc. (cf. B. Mozoomdar in a pamphlet on Vivekananda, the informer 
of Max Miiller). He had against him a curious alliance of Pro- 
testant missionaries, of Theosophists, and some members of the 
Brahmo Samaj. 
 
11 The chief charge was that he had eaten beef. He made no 
secret of it. He hated bigotry which believes that it is acquitted 
in respect of morality and God, when it has observed certain prac- 
tices, holding their non-observance as a cardinal sin. He held 
nothing inviolable save his two vows of poverty and chastity. For 
the rest with much common sense he held that a man should follow 
as far as possible the customs of the country in which he was living. 
 
11 To the scandalized remonstrances of Indian devotees, horrified 
to hear that their Swami ate impure food at the table of infidels, 
he retorted : 
 
" Do you mean to say I am born to live and die one of those 
caste-ridden, superstitious, merciless, hypocritical, atheistic cowards 
that you only find amongst the educated Hindus ? I hate cowardice. 
I will have nothing to do with cowards ... I belong to India just 
as much as to the world ; no humbugabout that . . . What country 
has any special claim upon me ? Am I any nation's slave ? . . . 
I see a greater Power than man, or God, or devil at my back. I 
require nobody's help. I have been all my life helping others. ..." 
 
(Letter written from Paris, September 9, 1895, to his Indian 
disciples.) 
 
18 Kripananda was the name taken by Leon Lansberg, at his 
initiation. He was a Russian Jew by birth, a naturalized American 
citizen, and part owner of a big New York journal, and was one 
of the first Western disciples accepted by Vivekananda. I shall 
speak of him later. 
 
The letter, of which I give a summary, was written in 1895 in 
the Madras Journal, The Brahmavadin. 
 
265 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
dissemination of hundreds of societies : goblins, ghosts, 
mahatmas, false prophets this refuge for aliens of all 
colours was an abominable place to Vivekananda. He 
felt himself obliged at the outset to cleanse this Augean 
stable." 
 
He committed to the devil the idlers, buffoons, fishers 
in troubled waters, gulls, who thronged to his first lectures. 
He was immediately the recipient of offers of association, 
promises, threats, and blackmailing letters from intriguers, 
busybodies, and religious charlatans. It is needless to 
state their effect on a character such as his. He would 
not tolerate the slightest domination. He rejected every 
alliance of one sect against another. And more than once 
he embraced the opportunity to engage in a public struggle 
without quarter against " combinations " wishing to use 
him for their own ends. 
 
For the honour of America it must be said here and 
now that his moral intransigeance, his virile idealism, his 
dauntless loyality attracted to him from all sides a chosen 
band of defenders and admirers, a group of whom were 
to form his first Western disciples and the most active 
agents in his work for human regeneration. 
 
 
 
266 
 
 
 
IV 
 
AMERICA AT THE TIME OF VIVEKANANDA'S FIRST VISIT. 
 
THE ANGLO-SAXON FORERUNNERS OF THE SPIRIT 
 
OF ASIA : EMERSON, THOREAU, WALT 
 
WHITMAN 
 
IT would be a matter of deep interest to know exactly 
how far the American spirit had been impregnated, 
directly or indirectly, by the infiltration of Hindu thought 
during the nineteenth century : for there can be no doubt 
that it has contributed to the strange moral and religious 
mentality of the modern United States which Europe has 
so much difficulty in understanding, with its astonishing 
mixture of Anglo-Saxon Puritanism, Yankee optimism of 
action, pragmatism, " scientism," and pseudo-Vedantism. 
I do not know whether any historian will be found to occupy 
himself seriously with the question. It is nevertheless a 
psychological problem of the first order, intimately connected 
with the history of our civilization. I do not possess the 
means for its solution, but at least I can indicate certain 
elements in it. 
 
It would seem that one of the chief people to introduce 
Hindu thought into the United States was Emerson, 1 and 
that Emerson in so doing had been deeply influenced by 
Thoreau. 
 
He was predisposed to such influences ; from 1830 
onwards they began to appear in his Journal, wherein 
he noted references to Hindu religious texts. His famous 
lecture, which created a scandal at the time, given in 1838 
at the University of Harvard, expressed belief in the divine 
in man akin to the concept of the soul, Atman Brahman. 
 
1 The article of a Hindu Brahmachundra Maitra, entitled " Emer- 
son from an Indian point of view," in the Harvard Theological 
Review of 1911 was mentioned to me in this connexion. But I 
have not been able to study it. 
 
267 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
It is here that he attached a strictly moral or moralist 
interpretation to it, his own mark and that of his race. 
But its fulfilment was the ecstatic realization of a veritable 
yoga of " justice/ 1 conceived in the double sense of moral 
good and cosmic equilibrium and uniting at one and the same 
time Karma (action), bhakti (love), and jnana (wisdom). 2 
 
Emerson exercised little method either in his reading or 
writing ; and Cabot, in his Memoir of him, tells us that 
he was easily satisfied with extracts and quotations and 
did not consult the authorities as a whole. But Thoreau 
was a great reader ; and between 1837 an( i 1862 he was 
Emerson's neighbour. In July, 1846, Emerson notes that 
Thoreau had been reading to him extracts from his Week 
on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Now this work 
(section, Monday) is an enthusiastic eulogy of the Gita, 
and of the great poems and philosophies of India. Thoreau 
suggested "A joint Bible" of the Asiatic Scriptures, 
" Chinese, Hindus, Persians, Hebrews, to carry to the ends 
of the earth." And he took for his motto, Ex Oriente Lux. 9 
 
1 " If a man is at heart just, then in so far is he God : the safety 
of God, the immortality of God, the majesty of God, do enter into 
that man with justice . . . For all beings proceed out of this same 
spirit, which is differently named love, justice, temperance, in its 
different applications, just as the ocean receives different names 
on the several shores which it washes . . . The perception of this 
law of laws awakens in the mind a sentiment which we call the 
religious sentiment, and which makes our highest happiness. Won- 
derful is its power to charm and to command. It is a mountain 
air ... It makes the sky and the hills sublime, and the silent 
song of the stars is it. . . ." 
 
(Address to the Senior Class in Divinity College, Cambridge 
(U.S.A.), July 15, 1838.) 
 
8 Thoreau gives his sources : a French translation of the Gita, 
whose author must be Burnouf, although he does not mention him, 
published in 1840, and more important, the English translation of 
Charles Wilkins of which an edition had just appeared in 1846 with 
a preface of Warren Hastings. I have said that this great man 
(Hastings), the conqueror, although he governed India, submitted 
to and publicly avowed the spiritual domination of the land of the 
Vedas. In 1786 he " recommended " a translation of the Bhaga- 
vadgita to the President of the East India Company, and wrote a 
preface to it. I have quoted from Thoreau himself in an earlier 
chapter, the magnificent witness of Warren Hastings, where he 
declares that " the writers of the Indian philosophies will sur- 
vive when the British dominion in India shall long have ceased to 
 
268 
 
 
 
AMERICA AT THE TIME OF VIVEKANANDA'S FIRST VISIT 
 
It may be imagined that such suggestions were not 
thrown away upon Emerson, and that the ardent Asiatism 
of Thoreau extended to him. 
 
It was at the same time that the " Transcendental Club " 
he had founded was in full swing ; and after 1850, the 
Dial, its quarterly, which he edited with the American 
Hypatia, Margaret Fuller, published translations from the 
Oriental languages. The emotion produced in him by 
Indian thought must have been very strong for him to 
write in 1856 such a deeply pedantic poem as his beautiful 
Brahma. 4 
 
It must be taken into consideration that New England 
was passing through a crisis of spiritual renaissance and 
intoxicating idealism, corresponding (though composed of 
very different elements, less cultivated, more robust, and 
infinitely nearer to nature) to the idealistic flame of Europe 
before 1848. 6 The anarchic Brookfarm of George Ripley 
 
exist, and when the sources which it yielded of wealth and power 
are lost to remembrance. " Thoreau also mentions other Hindu 
works, such as the Shakuntala of Kalidas, and speaks enthusiastically 
of Manu, whom he knew through the translations of William Jones. 
His Week's Journey, written from 1839 onwards, was published in 
1849. 
 
I owe these details to Miss Ethel Sidewick, who was kind enough 
to look them up for me with the learned help of the Master of 
Balliol College and a Professor Goddard of Swarthmore College 
(Pennsylvania). I here make grateful acknowledgment to them for 
their valuable help. 
 
4 It may please the reader to study it here : 
 
If the old stayer think he stays 
Or if the stainer think he is stain, 
They know not well the subtle ways 
I keep, and pass^ind turn again. 
 
My friends Waldo Frank and Van Wyck Brooks have given me 
some important details. In 1854 the Englishman, Thomas Chol- 
mondeley, the nephew of the great Bishop, Reginald Heber, visited 
Concord and became the friend of the whole intellectual colony. 
On his return to England, he sent Thoreau a collection of Oriental 
classics in forty-four volumes. Thoreau said that it was practically 
impossible to find any of these works in America. It may justly 
be thought that Emerson's poem, Brahma, was the flower of the 
tree which had just drunk deep of this flood of Indian thought. 
 
* This is only one example among a thousand others of the syn- 
chronism of the human Soul in its most diverse ethnic expressions 
 
269 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
 
 
(between 1840 and 1847), ^ e feverish assembly of the 
Friends of Universal Progress at Boston in 1840, brought 
together in one group men and women of all opinions and 
professions, all fired with primitive energy, and aspiring to 
shake off the shackles of past lies without knowing what 
truth to adopt ; for no human society can live unless it 
has persuaded itself that it possesses the Truth ! 6 
 
Alas ! the Truth espoused by America during the sub- 
sequent half century bears no resemblance to the generous 
expectation of the honeymoon ! Truth was not ripe, still 
less those who wished to pluck it. Its failure was, however, 
by no means due to lack of noble ideals and great ideas, 
but they were all too mixed and too hastily digested without 
time for them to be healthily assimilated. The nervous 
shocks, produced by the grave political and social upheavals 
after the war of Secession, the morbid haste which has 
developed into the frantic rhythm of modern civilization, 
have thrown the American spirit off its balance for a long 
time. It is, however, not difficult to trace during the 
second half of the century the seeds sown by the free 
pioneers of Concord, Emerson and Thoreau. But from their 
 
which has often led me to think, as I have studied history, of 
the different branches of one same tree, mutually sharing the same 
changing seasons. The conviction has slowly ripened in my mind 
until it is now firmly established that all the laws governing the 
particular evolution of peoples, nations, classes and their struggles 
are subordinate to greater cosmic laws controlling the general 
evolution of humanity. 
 
6 John Morley, in his critical Essay on Emerson, has painted a 
charming picture of this hour of intellectual intoxication of this 
" madness of enthusiasm/' as Shaftesbury called it, which from 
1820 to 1848 turned the heads of New England. 
 
Harold D. Carey, in a recent Article in the Bookman (February, 
1929) devoted chiefly to this strange Brookfarm, has shown the 
revolutionary character of its spiritual and social movement and 
the impression of " Bolshevism " which it produced on the minds 
of the governing classes and on middle-class opinion. It was an 
unchaining of terrifying and troublous furies. Especially did they 
turn against Emerson, and accuse him of being chiefly responsible 
for the spirit of revolt. Our generation has all too soon forgotten 
the very brave part played by Emerson and his friends. Thoreau 
and Theodore Parker at the same time publicly flagellated legal 
lies, and protested against the nascent monster of imperialism in 
affairs (on the occasion of the war engineered by the American 
Government against Mexico in 1847). 
 
270 
 
 
 
AMERICA AT THE TIME OF VIVEKANANDA'S FIRST VISIT 
 
grain what strange bread has been kneaded by the followers 
of the "mind cure" and of Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy! 
 
Both of them have used, more or less wittingly, Indian 
elements strained through the idealism of Emerson. 7 But 
 
7 William James said of the " mind cure " : " It is made up of 
the following elements : the four Gospels, the idealism of Berkeley 
and Emerson, spiritism with its law of the radical evolution of 
souls through their successive lives, optimistic and vulgar evolu- 
tionism, and the religions of India/' 
 
Charles Baudouin adds that after 1875 the influence of the 
French hypnotic schools was superimposed. He notes that in re- 
turn Cou6 had profited by it, for he learnt English especially to 
make the acquaintance of the vulgarized mysticism of America and 
has developed from it its simplest, most rational and positivist 
expression. 
 
But it is necessary to go back to the magnetism of Mesmer at 
the beginning of the eighteenth century for the common source and 
further to the elements making up this powerful and enigmatic 
personality (cf . Pierre Janet : Meditations psychologiqties, Vol. I, 
Alcan, 1919). 
 
As for Christian Science, it is enough to mention the little lexicon 
of philosophic and religious terms added by Mrs. Eddy to her Bible, 
Science and Health, in order to see the likeness of certain of its 
fundamental ideas to those of Hindu Vedantism : 
 
" Me or I. The divine principle. The Spirit, the soul . . . 
Eternal Mind. There is only one ME or US, only one Principle 
or Mind, which governs all things . . . Everything reflects or re- 
fracts in God's Creation one unique Mind ; and everything which 
does not reflect this unique mind is false and a cheat. . . ." 
 
" God. The great I AM . . . Principle, Spirit, Soul, Life, Truth, 
love, all substance, intelligence." 
 
It would appear that Mrs. Eddy did not wish to acknowledge 
their origin. She has been silent on that point in the new editions 
of her book. But in the first she quoted from Vedantic philosophy. 
The Swami Abhedananda, a disciple of Ramakrishna, has related 
that the 24th edition of Science a#d Health contained a chapter, 
now suppressed, which began with four Vedantic quotations. In 
the same chapter Mrs. Eddy quoted the Bhagavadgita, from the 
translation of Charles Wilkins, published in London in 1785 and in 
New York in 1867. These quotations were later omitted from the 
book : only one or two veiled allusions can be found to Indian 
thought. This attempt at dissimulation for the sake of the un- 
warned reader is a clumsy confession of its importance. (Cf. an 
article by Madeleine R. Harding in the Prabuddha Bharata Review, 
March, 1928.) 
 
Lastly, analogies to Indian thought are still more striking in the 
most important treatises on the Mind cure by Horatio W. Dresser, 
Henry Wood, and R. W. Trine. But as they date from the end of 
 
271 
 
 
 
PROPHETS OF THE NEW INDIA 
 
they have reduced them to the dead level of a utilitarianism 
looking only to the immediate profit, of a kind of mystic 
hygiene, resting on a prodigious credulity which gives to 
Christian Science 8 its proud pseudo-scientific aspect and 
its pseudo-Christianity. 
 
One trait common to these doctrines is the vulgar 
optimism, which resolves the problem of evil by a simple 
denial, or rather by its omission. " Evil does not exist. 
Then, let us turn away our eyes ! " . . . Such an intellectual 
attitude in all its native simplicity was too often that of 
Emerson. He omitted as often as possible from his subjects 
those of illness or death. He hated the shades. " Respect 
the light ! " But it was the respect of fear. His eyes 
were feeble and so he began by putting the sun under a 
shade. In this he was only too closely followed by his 
fellow-countrymen. Perhaps it is not too much to say 
that such optimism was necessary for action, but I have 
no great faith in the energy of a man or of a people, which 
rests on conditions contrary to the Natura Rerum. I prefer 
Margaret Fuller's saying, " I accept the universe/' But 
whether one accepts it or not, the first essential is to see 
it and to see it as a whole ! We shall soon hear Vive- 
kananda saying to his English disciples : " Learn to recog- 
nize the Mother, in Evil, Terror, Sorrow, Denial as well 
as in Sweetness, and in Joy/' Similarly the smiling Rama- 
krishna from the depths of his dream of love and bliss, 
could see and remind the complaisant preachers of a " good 
God" that Goodness was not enough to define the Force 
which daily sacrificed thousands of innocents. 9 Therein 
lies the capital difference separating India from heroic 
 
the century, that is to say after the death of Vivekananda, they 
may well have owed much to the teachings of the latter. They 
agree on all points with the rules of concentration and with the 
faith behind it. The French reader will find some characteristic 
extracts in the Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. 
(Pages in French edition are 80-102.) 
 
8 It is to be remarked that this name, Christian Science, had 
already been used by a precursor of Mrs. Eddy, Dr. Quimby, who 
several years before her (about 1863) had laid down a similar doc- 
trine under the name of Christ Science, Christian Science, Divine 
Science, the Science of Health. Quimby's manuscripts, recently 
published, establish his influence over Mrs. Eddy. 
 
f See later, p. 346. 
 
272 
 
 
 
AMERICA AT THE TIME OF VIVEKANANDA'S FIRST VISIT 
 
Greece and Anglo-Saxon optimism. They look Reality in 
the face, whether they embrace it as in India or struggle 
against it and try to subdue it as in Greece ; but with 
them action never impinges on the domain of Knowledge as 
in America, where Knowledge has been domesticated in 
the service of action and wears a livery with gold-braided 
cap bearing the name : Pragmatism. 10 It is easily under- 
stood that a Vivekananda would not like such trappings, 
concealing as they did puny and degraded bastards of his 
glorious free and sovereign Vedantism of India. 11 
 
But overtopping this herd of living men there was a 
dead giant, 12 whose shade was a thousand times warmer 
than such pale reflections of the Sun of Being seen through 
 
10 In weakened post-war Europe these same moral characteristics 
have unfortunately the tendency to be established : and the worst 
feature of this moral slackness is that it is accompanied with false 
bragging which flatters itself on its realism amd virility. 
 
11 At the time of his first stay in the United States, the Meta- 
physical College of Massachusetts, opened by Mrs. Eddy at Boston, 
where she taught in seven years more than four thousand pupils, 
was temporarily closed (in October, 1889) in order to allow the 
foundress, " Pastor Emeritus of the first Church of Christ Scientist/' 
to write her new Science and Health, which was published in 1891. 
The College reopened under her presidency in 1899. 
 
The Mind Cure was flourishing, and produced the New Thought, 
which is to Christian Science what rationalistic Protestantism is to 
orthodox Catholicism. 
 
The Theosophical Society, of which one of the two founders, 
Colonel Olcott (in 1875), was an American, worked vigorously in 
India and elsewhere. His action, as I have said, now and then 
came up against that of Vivekananda. 
 
I have only mentioned here the three chief currents then stirring 
the religious subconsciousncss of America, together with " revival- 
ism " (the religion of revivals), also leading to abandonment to sub- 
conscious forces while Myers was evolving (between 1886 and 1905) 
the scientific spirit theory of knowledge and the subconscious life. 
 
A crater in eruption. Mud and fire. 
 
12 Besides Whitman, who was already dead, there was another, 
no less great, who had no less affinity to the spirit of India : Edgar 
Allen Poe : his Eureka, published in 1848, showed thought closely 
akin to that of the Upanishads. Some people, such as Waldo 
Frank, believe that he must in the course of his wanderings (it is 
practically certain that he visited Russia in his early youth) have 
come in contact with Indian mysticism. But Eureka did not affect 
contemporary thought. Even though Whitman for a time colla- 
borated with Poe (in the Broadway Journal and in the Democratic 
 
273 T 
 
 
 
OF tHE NEW INDIA 
 
their cold methodist window panes. He stood before Vive- 
kananda and held out his great hand to him . . . How 
was it that he did not take it ? ... Or rather (for we 
know that later in India Vivekananda read his Leaves of 
Grass) how is it that Vivekananda's chroniclers, however 
careless and ill-informed, have managed to leave this capital 
event out of their story ? the meeting of the Indian Ambas- 
sador of the Atman Brahman with the epic singer of Myself 
Walt Whitman ! 
 
He had just died on March 26, 1892, the previous year, 
near Camden, the workman's suburb of Philadelphia. The 
triumphant memory of his obsequies not pagan as they 
have been described, but exactly in the spirit of Indian 
universalism, 18 were still reverberating. Vivekananda saw 
more than one of Whitman's intimates coming to him ; 
he was even joined in friendship to him who had bidden 
the last farew