Swami Kalyandev: A Lamp that Swamiji Lighted

Written by VHouse Admin. Posted in Articles

Source from An article by Swami Videhatmananda which appeared in Prabuddha Bharata – May 2005

A free translation by Swami Satyamayananda, from ‘News and Reports’ (January 2005) of Vivek Jyoti, the Hindi journal of the Ramakrishna Order, published from Raipur, Chattisgarh.

     Swami Vivekananda said: ‘The national ideals of India are RENUNCIATION and SERVICE. Intensify her in those channels, and the rest will take care of itself. The banner of the spiritual cannot be raised too high in this country. In it alone is salvation.’ A sannyasin who embodied these words of Swamiji’s recently entered into mahasamadhi. He was the last surviving person who had seen and talked to Swami Vivekananda. One is amazed to learn how he translated into action Swamiji’s message to him and transformed himself into a nationally renowned saint. He performed not ordinary miracles but the real miracle of bringing solace and succour to numerous poor and downtrodden people. Last year, on 14 July, the 129-year-old sannyasin passed away into eternal samadhi, after ‘witnessing three centuries’.

     Swami Kalyandev was born Kaluram on 21 June 1876 in Kotana village in the district of Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, at his maternal grandfather’s home. He was the third son of his pious parents, who hailed from the village of Mundbhar in Muzaffarnagar district. His father was Pherudatt and mother, Bhoi Devi. Kaluram spent his early years in Mundbhar.

     In his childhood Kaluram got an opportunity to visit his paternal aunt’s home in Budhana. His uncle Bulla Bhagat was a zamindar there. There was no dearth of anything at home but Bulla Bhagat and his wife were distressed because they were childless. This was probably the reason the devout couple had the child Kaluram brought to fill the void. Religion is the backbone of rural India, and Bulla Bhagat’s home was no different; rather it was intensely religious. The couple immersed themselves in devotion to God and service of holy men. Kaluram’s uncle became so well known among the wandering sadhus that they always thronged his doors. Unfailingly, every morning and evening there used to be readings from the Ramayana, after which prasad used to be distributed joyously to all present.

     Kaluram was happy growing in this ambience. He used to rise early and after ablutions sit beside his uncle to attentively listen to the Ramayana being sung. Thus from childhood the stories and teachings of the Ramayana entered deep into Kaluram’s heart and left a permanent impress. These ennobling ideas and images then became his ideal. Seeing so many sadhus every day and noticing their spirit of freedom, which impressed him, young Kaluram one day left his uncle’s home like the itinerant mendicants to strive for God-realization. He wore only a loincloth and a cotton chadar.

     Empty-handed and barefoot, begging for food and asking the way, the lad reached Ayodhya, the place of his dreams and aspirations. Here he met Swami Ramdas, who tutored him in the alphabet. Kaluram was a bright student and soon he could read the Ramayana in Hindi. In Ayodhya he heard of a holy place of pilgrimage, Hardwar. His mind now became restless to visit it, and after spending some more days in Ayodhya, Kaluram left for Hardwar. In Hardwar, he was delighted to see the numerous temples and ashramas. He never settled in one ashama but kept moving on to different ones. Day and night he listened to the holy scriptures and devotional songs. It was during one of these days that he went to Khetri, where he met Swami Vivekananda and was instructed by him.

     After returning from Khetri, there arose a strong desire in his mind to get formally initiated by a guru. In his search for an ideal guru, Kaluram reached Muni-ki-Reti in Rishikesh, the abode of ascetics, and met Swami Purnananda. The pure and simple Swami Purnananda agreed to Kaluram’s earnest prayers and accepted him as a disciple. Observing Kaluram’s devotion to service, his guru initiated him into sannyasa in 1900 and gave him the name Swami Kalyandev. At his guru’s behest Kalyandev stayed in the Himalayan regions and performed intense tapasya for a few years. But there was something that was tugging at his heart. He descended from the mountains and soon engaged himself in various kinds of altruistic works. Now his yearning soul was calmed down. In time, Kalyandev’s work grew into a seva-yajna, service as a religious sacrifice. And throughout the remainder of his long life of more than one hundred years, this seva-yajna grew in intensity.

     Meeting Swami Vivekananda was the greatest turning point in Swami Kalyandev’s life. In November 1897, Swamiji had reached Dehra Dun. From there he proceeded to Delhi, Alwar and then to Jaipur, where he put up at Khetri House. On 9 December, Swamiji, accompanied by some of his gurubhais and disciples, left for Khetri in horse carriages and reached the place on the 12th. Swamiji being a state guest, arrangements were made by Maharaja Ajit Singh for his stay at Sukh Mahal. In this garden house Swamiji stayed for three weeks with his entourage.

     Probably, Swami Kalyandev first heard of Swamiji when he was about twenty-one years old. He was still Kaluram then and was residing in Hardwar. Swamiji’s triumph at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 and his subsequent successful preaching of Hinduism had generated awe, veneration and gratitude in India. When Kaluram heard that the world-renowned Swami Vivekananda was going to Khetri via Dehra Dun, Delhi, Alwar and Jaipur, he decided to meet him. Doggedly, he started for Jaipur on foot. On reaching there he heard that Swamiji had left for Khetri, and that on his return journey he would take a different route to Calcutta via Jodhpur and Ajmer. In those days, reaching Khetri was extremely difficult, but young Kaluram was no weakling and as was his habit, he again travelled on foot. He met Swamiji in one of the garden houses in Khetri.

     A reporter of Amar Ujala, a popular Hindi daily, while interviewing Swami Kalyandev for the paper’s 14 October 2003 issue, enquired, ‘Where did you get the inspiration to go from village to village and do social service?’ The swami replied, ‘In 1893 I met Swami Vivekananda in Khetri.  He said to me, “If you want to see God, go to the huts of the poor. And if you want to attain God, then serve the poor, the helpless, the downtrodden and the miserable.” To attain God through service of the poor is the mantra I received from Swamiji. I have never been able to forget it.’

     According to another version, during Kaluram’s meeting with Swamiji he was told that ‘The vision of God can be had in the huts of the poor. The farmer and the labourer – these are God’s two children. When you wake up in the morning and come out of your house, you will hear two sounds: the bells ringing in the temples and the cries of the suffering, “Oh, Rama! I am dying!” Follow the second sound first and try to alleviate people’s suffering according to your capacity. You may go to the temple only then.’

     Swamiji’s remarkable personality and his instructions left an indelible impression on young Kaluram. As we have already seen, it was after this meeting that Kaluram found his guru and had sannyasa. Then, for the rest of his life, he went from village to village on foot and served farmers and labourers, the poor and the downtrodden.

     With unflagging effort stretching over a century, Swami Kalyandev established about three hundred institutions for spreading education and bringing humanitarian aid to villages, especially what was beneficial to people at grass-roots level. His work covered western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi and other places. The institutions include technical and vocational schools, an ayurvedic medical college, middle schools, high schools, girls’ schools, junior high schools, primary schools, clinics and dispensaries, eye clinics, Sanskrit schools, workshops, students’ homes, dharmashalas, schools for the deaf and dumb, blind schools, yoga instruction centres, old age homes, asylums for old cows, orphanages, martyrs’ memorials, and other religious and spiritual centres. In all these institutions distinctions of caste or sex have never been a bar. Poor or rich, all receive equal treatment.

     All of Swami Kalyandev’s endeavours show that he tried to raise social consciousness by bringing in modern ideas. He worked against untouchability, alcoholism, child marriage and such other social evils. But in spite of being the initiator of so many institutions, Swami Kalyandev himself never held an official post.

     Swami Kalyandev also helped rebuild dilapidated and neglected religious and historical sites. For example, he renovated a monument in Shuktal, sixty kilometers north of Meerut, associated with the great sage Shuka, the son of Veda Vyasa and the narrator of the Bhagavata. There the swami also established the Shukadeva Ashrama and Seva Samiti. He also renovated parts of Hastinapur, the old capital of the Pandavas and Kauravas. Many places of pilgrimage in Haryana too have received his attention. In works of this kind, the swami displayed uncommon concern for the safety of pilgrims.

     Even at 128 Swami Kalyandev kept himself engaged in the service of the poor, looking upon them as manifestations of Narayana. He was fearless; disease and sorrow meant nothing to him. He was simple and innocent. From early morning till late in the night people of all types used to flock to him and he would listen to each of them attentively and patiently and give proper advice. Thus he tried to remove their wants and help them out of their problems.

     Swami Kalyandev met Mahatma Gandhiji in 1915. He was acquainted with luminaries like Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr Sampurnanand. In 1982 he received the Padma Sri award, and in 2000 the prestigious Padma Bhushan. He was also awarded an honorary D.Litt. by Meerut University. In 2002 Sri Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then prime minister of India, released in his presence the momentous volume The Seer of Three Centuries: Swami Kalyan Dev, compiled in his honour.

     Swami Vivekananda had said: ‘You have heard that Christ said, “My words are spirit and they are life.” So are my words spirit and life; they will burn their way into your brain and you will never get away from them!’  We see the demonstration of this truth in the life of Swami Kalyandev. It was a great life of renunciation and service. It has set a towering example for us to emulate. ~

Notes and References

1. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 9 vols. (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1-8, 1989; 9, 1997), 5.228.
2. Although Swami Kalyandev said that he met Swamiji in 1893, the chronology of events suggests that the meeting took place in 1897.
3. It was Sri Suresh Kumar Srivastav of Gursarai, Jhansi, who first made this clipping available to the author.
4. Shuktirth Sandesh (Hindi), July-September 2004, 3. This source was made available to the author through the kindness of Dr Sudhir Kumar Bharadwaj of Muzaffarnagar.
5. Godhan (Delhi), January 2003.
6. CW, 9.407.

Questions and Answers: Selections from The Math Diary

Written by VHouse Admin. Posted in Life and Works, Vivekananda

Q.—Whom can we call a Guru?

A.—He who can tell your past and future is your Guru.
Q.—How can one have Bhakti?

A.—There is Bhakti within you, only a veil of lust-and-wealth covers it, and as soon as that is removed Bhakti will manifest by itself.
Q.—What is the true meaning of the assertion that we should depend on ourselves?

A.—Here self means the eternal Self. But even dependence on the non-eternal self may lead gradually to the right goal, as the individual self is really the eternal Self under delusion.
Q.—If unity is the only reality, how could duality which is perceived by all every moment have arisen?

A.—Perception is never dual; it is only the representation of perception that involves duality. If perception were dual, the known could have existed independently of the knower, and vice versa.
Q.—How is harmonious development of character to be best effected?

A.—By association with persons whose character has been so developed.
Q.—What should be our attitude to the Vedas?

A.—The Vedas, i.e. only those portions of them which agree with reason, are to be accepted as authority. Other Shâstras, such as the Purânas etc., are only to be accepted so far as they do not go against the Vedas. All the religious thoughts that have come subsequent to the Vedas, in the world, in whatever part of it have been derived from the Vedas.
Q.—Is the division of time into four Yugas astronomical or arbitrary calculation?

A.—There is no mention of such divisions in the Vedas. They are arbitrary assumptions of Paurânika times.
Q.—Is the relation between concepts and words necessary and immutable, or accidental and conventional?

A.—The point is exceedingly debatable. It seems that there is a necessary relation, but not absolutely so, as appears from the diversity of language. There may be some subtle relation which we are not yet able to detect.
Q.—What should be the principle to be followed in working within India?

A.— First of all, men should be taught to be practical and physically strong. A dozen of such lions will conquer the world, and not millions of sheep can do so. Secondly, men should not be taught to imitate a personal ideal, however great.

Then Swamiji went on to speak of the corruptions of some of the Hindu symbols. He distinguished between the path of knowledge and the path of devotion. The former belonged properly to the Aryas, and therefore was so strict in the selection of Adhikâris (qualified aspirants), and the latter coming from the South, or non-Aryan sources, made no such distinction.
Q.—What part will the Ramakrishna Mission take in the regenerating work of India?

A.—From this Math will go out men of character who will deluge the world with spirituality. This will be followed by revivals in other lines. Thus Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas will be produced. The Shudra caste will exist no longer—their work being done by machinery. The present want of India is the Kshatriya force.
Q.—Is retrograde reincarnation from the human stage possible?

A.—Yes. Reincarnation depends on Karma. If a man accumulates Karma akin to the beastly nature, he will be drawn thereto.

In one of the question-classes (1898) Swamiji traced image-worship to Buddhistic sources. First, there was the Chaitya; second, the Stupa ; and then came the temple of Buddha. Along with it arose the temples of the Hindu deities.
Q.—Does the Kundalini really exist in the physical body?

A.—Shri Ramakrishna used to say that the so celled lotuses of the Yogi do not really exist in the human body, but that they are created within oneself by Yoga powers.
Q.—Can a man attain Mukti by image-worship?

A.—Image-worship cannot directly give Mukti; it may be an indirect cause, a help on the way. Image-worship should not be condemned, for, with many, it prepares the mind for the realisation of the Advaita which alone makes man perfect.
Q.—What should be our highest ideal of character?

A.—Renunciation.
Q.—How did Buddhism leave the legacy of corruption in India?

A.—The Bauddhas tried to make everyone in India a monk or a nun. We cannot expect that from every one. This led to gradual relaxation among monks and nuns. It was also caused by their imitating Tibetan and other barbarous customs in the name of religion. They went, to preach in those places and assimilated their corruptions, and then introduced them into India.
Q.—Is Mâyâ without beginning and end?

A.—Maya is eternal both ways, taken universally, ask genus; but it is non-eternal individually.
Q.—Brahman and Maya cannot be cognised simultaneously. How could the absolute reality of either be proved as arising out of the one or the other?

A.—It could be proved only by realisation. When one realises Brahman, for him Maya exists no longer, just as once the identity of the rope is found out, the illusion of the serpent comes no more.
Q.—What is Maya?

A.—There is only one thing, call it by any name—matter, or spirit. It is difficult or rather impossible to think the one independent of the other. This is Maya, or ignorance.
Q.—What is Mukti (liberation)?

A.—Mukti means entire freedom—freedom from the bondages of good and evil. A golden chain is as much a chain as an iron one. Shri Ramakrishna used to say that, to pick out one thorn which has stuck into the foot, another thorn is requisitioned, and when the thorn is taken out, both are thrown away. So the bad tendencies are to be counteracted by the good ones, but after that, the good tendencies have also to be conquered.
Q.—Can salvation (Mukti) be obtained without the grace of God?

A.—Salvation has nothing to do with God. Freedom already is.
Q.—What is the proof of the self in us not being the product of the body etc.?

A.—The “ego” like its correlative “non-ego”, is the product of the body, mind etc. The only proof of the existence of the real Self is realisation.
Q.—Who is a true Jnâni, and who is a true Bhakta?

A.—The true Jnani is he who has the deepest love within his heart and at the same time is a practical seer of Advaita in his outward relations. And the true Bhakta (lover) is he who, realising his own soul as identified with the universal Soul, and thus possessed of the true Jnana within, feels for and loves everyone. Of Jnana and Bhakti he who advocates one and denounces the other cannot be either a Jnani or a Bhakta, but he is a thief and a cheat.
Q.—Why should a man serve Ishvara?

A.—If you once admit that there is such a thing as Ishvara (God), you have numberless occasions to serve Him. Service of the Lord means, according to all the scriptural authorities, remembrance (Smarana). If you believe in the existence of God, you will be reminded of Him at every step of your life.
Q.—Is Mâyâvâda different from Advaitâvada?

A.—No. They are identical. There is absolutely no other explanation of Advaitavada except Mayavada.
Q.—How is it possible for God who is infinite to be limited in the form of a man (as an Avatâra)?

A.—It is true that God is infinite, but not in the sense in which you comprehend it. You have confounded your idea of infinity with the materialistic idea of vastness. When you say that God cannot take the form of a man, you understand that a very, very large substance or form (as if material in nature), cannot be compressed into a very, very small compass. God’s infinitude refers to the unlimitedness of a purely spiritual entity, and as such, does not suffer in the least by expressing itself in a human form.
Q.—Some say, “First of all become a Siddha (one who has realised the Truth), and then you have the right to Karma, or work for others”, while others say that one should work for others even from the beginning. How can both these views be reconciled?

A.—You are confusing one thing with the other. Karma means either service to humanity or preaching. To real preaching, no doubt, none has the right except the Siddha Purusha, i.e. one who has realised the Truth. But to service every one has the right, and not only so, but every one is under obligation to serve others, so long as he is accepting service from others.

Questions and Answers: At The Brooklyn Ethical Society, Brooklyn (U.S.A)

Written by VHouse Admin. Posted in Life and Works, Vivekananda

Q.—How can you reconcile your optimistic views with the existence of evil, with the universal prevalence of sorrow and pain?

A. —I can only answer the question if the existence of evil be first proved; but this the Vedantic religion does not admit. Eternal pain unmixed with pleasure would be a positive evil; but temporal pain and sorrow, if they have contributed an element of tenderness and nobility tending towards eternal bliss, are not evils: on the contrary, they may be supreme good. We cannot assert that anything is evil until we have traced its sequence into the realm of eternity.

Devil worship is not a part of the Hindu religion. The human race is in process of development; all have not reached the same altitude. Therefore some are nobler and purer in their earthly lives than others. Every one has an opportunity within the limits of the sphere of his present development of making himself better. We cannot unmake ourselves; we cannot destroy or impair the vital force within us, but we have the freedom to give it different directions.
Q.—Is not the reality of cosmic matter simply the imagining of our own minds?

A.—In my opinion the external world is certainly an entity and has an existence outside of our mental conceptions. All creation is moving onwards and upwards, obedient to the great law of spirit evolution, which is different from the evolution of matter. The latter is symbolical of, but does not explain, the process of the former. We are not individuals now, in our present earthly environment. We shall not have reached individuality until we shall have ascended to the higher state, when the divine spirit within us will have a perfect medium for the expression of its attributes.
Q.—What is your explanation of the problem presented to Christ, as to whether it was the infant itself or its parents that had sinned, that it was born blind?

A.—While the question of sin does not enter into the problem, I am convinced that the blindness was due to some act on the part of the spirit of the child in a previous incarnation. In my opinion such problems are only explicable on the hypothesis of a prior earthly existence.
Q.—Do our spirits pass at death into a state of happiness?

A.—Death is only a change of condition: time and space are in you, you are not in time and space. It is enough to know that as we make our lives purer and nobler, either in the seen or the unseen world, the nearer we approach God, who is the centre of all spiritual beauty and eternal joy.

Q.—What is the Hindu theory of the transmigration of souls?

A.—It is on the same basis as the theory of conservation is to the scientist. This theory was first produced by a philosopher of my country. The ancient sages did not believe in a creation. A creation implies producing something out of nothing. That is impossible. There was no beginning of creation as there was no beginning of time. God and creation are as two lines without end, without beginning, and parallel. Our theory of creation is “It is, it was, and is to be”. All punishment is but reaction. People of the West should learn one thing from India and that is toleration. All the religions are good, since the essentials are the same.
Q.—Why are the women of India not much elevated?

A.—It is in a great degree owing to the barbarous invaders through different ages; it is partly due to the people of India themselves.

When it was pointed out to Swamiji in America that Hinduism is not a proselytising religion, he replied:

“I have a message to the West as Buddha had a message to the East.”
Q.—Do you intend to introduce the practices and rituals of the Hindu religion into this country (America)?

A.—I am preaching simply philosophy.
Q.—Do you not think if the fear of future hell-fire were taken from man there would be no controlling him?

A.—No! On the contrary, I think he is made far better through love and hope than through fear.

India wants not lecturing but work

Written by Web Admin. Posted in Life and Works, Talks and Reminiscences

Source: Conversations with Sri Sharat Chandra Chakravarty, Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 5

Disciple: How is it, Swamiji, that you do not lecture in this country? You have stirred Europe and America with your lectures, but coming back here you have kept silence.

Swamiji: In this country, the ground should be prepared first; then if the seed is sown, the plant will come out best. The ground in the West, in Europe and America is very fertile and fit for sowing seeds. There they have reached the climax of Bhoga (enjoyment). Being satiated with Bhoga to the full, their minds are not getting peace now even in those enjoyments, and they feel as if they wanted something else. In this country you have neither Bhoga nor Yoga (renunciation). When one is satiated with Bhoga, then it is that one will listen to and understand the teachings on Yoga. What good will lectures do in a country like India which has become the birthplace of disease, sorrow, and affliction, and where men are emaciated through starvation, and weak in mind?

Disciple: How is that? Do you not say that ours is the land of religion and that here the people understand religion as they do nowhere else? Why then will not this country be animated by your inspiring eloquence and reap to the full the fruits thereof?

Swamiji: Now understand what religion means. The first thing required is the worship of the Kurma (tortoise) Incarnation, and the belly-god is this Kurma, as it were. Until you pacify this, no one will welcome your words about religion. India is restless with the thought of how to face this spectre of hunger. The draining of the best resources of the country by the foreigners, the unrestricted exports of merchandise, and, above all, the abominable jealousy natural to slaves are eating into the vitals of India. First of all, you must remove this evil of hunger and starvation, this constant anxiety for bare existence, from those to whom you want to preach religion; otherwise, lectures and such things will be of no benefit.

Disciple: What should we do then to remove that evil?

Swamiji: First, some young men full of the spirit of renunciation are needed — those who will be ready to sacrifice their lives for others, instead of devoting themselves to their own happiness. With this object in view I shall establish a Math to train young Sannyâsins, who will go from door to door and make the people realise their pitiable condition by means of facts and reasoning, and instruct them in the ways and means for their welfare, and at the same time will explain to them as clearly as possible, in very simple and easy language, the higher truths of religion. The masses in our country are like the sleeping Leviathan. The education imparted by the present university system reaches one or two per cent of the masses only. And even those who get that do not succeed in their endeavours of doing any good to their country. But it is not their fault, poor fellows! As soon as they come out of their college, they find themselves fathers of several children! Somehow or other they manage to secure the position of a clerk, or at the most, a deputy magistrate. This is the finale of education! With the burden of a family on their backs, they find no time to do anything great or think anything high. They do not find means enough to fulfil their personal wants and interests; so what can be expected of them in the way of doing anything for others?

Disciple: Is there then no way out for us?

Swamiji: Certainly there is. This is the land of Religion Eternal. The country has fallen, no doubt, but will as surely rise again, and that upheaval will astound the world. The lower the hollows the billows make, the higher and with greater force will they rise again.

Disciple: How will India rise again?

Swamiji: Do you not see? The dawn has already appeared in the eastern sky, and there is little delay in the sun’s rising. You all set your shoulders to the wheel! What is there in making the world all in all, and thinking of “My Samsâra (family and property), my Samsâra”? Your duty at present is to go from one part of the country to another, from village to village, and make the people understand that mere sitting idly won’t do any more. Make them understand their real condition and say, “O ye brothers, arise! Awake! How much longer would you remain asleep!” Go and advise them how to improve their own condition, and make them comprehend the sublime truths of the Shâstras (scriptures), by presenting them in a lucid and popular way. So long the Brahmins have monopolised religion; but since they cannot hold their ground against the strong tide of time, go and take steps so that one and all in the land may get that religion. Impress upon their minds that they have the same right to religion as the Brahmins. Initiate all, even down to the Chandâlas (people of the lowest castes), in these fiery Mantras. Also instruct them, in simple words, about the necessities of life, and in trade, commerce, agriculture, etc. If you cannot do this then fie upon your education and culture, and fie upon your studying the Vedas and Vedanta!

Disciple: But where is that strength in us? I should have felt myself blessed if I had a hundredth part of your powers, Swamiji.

Swamiji: How foolish! Power and things like that will come by themselves. Put yourself to work, and you will final such tremendous power coming to you that you will feel it hard to bear. Even the least work done for others awakens the power within; even thinking the least good of others gradually instils into the heart the strength of a lion. I love you all ever so much, but I wish you all to die working for others — I should rather be glad to see you do that!

Disciple: What will become of those, then, who depend on me?

Swamiji: If you are ready to sacrifice your life for others, God will certainly provide some means for them. Have you not read in the Gita (VI. 40) the words of Shri Krishna, “न हि कल्याणकृत्कश्चित् दुर्गतिं तात गच्छति — Never does a doer of good, O my beloved, come to grief”?

Disciple: I see, sir.

Swamiji: The essential thing is renunciation. With out renunciation none can pour out his whole heart in working for others. The man of renunciation sees all with an equal eye and devotes himself to the service of all. Does not our Vedanta also teach us to see all with an equal eye? Why then do you cherish the idea that the wife and children are your own, more than others? At your very threshold, Nârâyana Himself in the form of a poor beggar is dying of starvation! Instead of giving him anything, would you only satisfy the appetites of your wife and children with delicacies? Why, that is beastly!

Disciple: To work for others requires a good deal of money at times, and where shall I get that?

Swamiji: Why not do as much as lies within your power? Even if you cannot give to others for want of money, surely you can at least breathe into their ears some good words or impart some good instruction, can’t you? Or does that also require money?

Disciple: Yes, sir, that I can do.

Swamiji: But saying, “I can”, won’t do. Show me through action what you can do, and then only I shall know that your coming to me is turned to some good account. Get up, and put your shoulders to the wheel — how long is this life for? As you have come into this world, leave some mark behind. Otherwise, where is the difference between you and the trees and stones? They, too, come into existence, decay and die. If you like to be born and to die like them, you are at liberty to do so. Show me by your actions that your reading the Vedanta has been fruitful of the highest good. Go and tell all, “In every one of you lies that Eternal Power”, and try to wake It up. What will you do with individual salvation? That is sheer selfishness. Throw aside your meditation, throw away your salvation and such things! Put your whole heart and soul in the work to which I have consecrated myself.

With bated breath the disciple heard these inspiring words, and Swamiji went on with his usual fire and eloquence.

Swamiji: First of all, make the soil ready, and thousands of Vivekanandas will in time be born into this world to deliver lectures on religion. You needn’t worry yourself about that! Don’t you see why I am starting orphanages, famine-relief works, etc.? Don’t you see how Sister Nivedita, a British lady, has learnt to serve Indians so well, by doing even menial work for them? And can’t you, being Indians, similarly serve your own fellow-countrymen? Go, all of you, wherever there is an outbreak of plague or famine, or wherever the people are in distress, and mitigate their sufferings. At the most you may die in the attempt — what of that? How many like you are being born and dying like worms every day? What difference does that make to the world at large? Die you must, but have a great ideal to die for, and it is better to die with a great ideal in life. Preach this ideal from door to door, and you will yourselves be benefited by it at the same time that you are doing good to your country. On you lie the future hopes of our country. I feel extreme pain to see you leading a life of inaction. Set yourselves to work — to work! Do not tarry — the time of death is approaching day by day! Do not sit idle, thinking that everything will be done in time, later on! Mind — nothing will be done that way!

Madame Emma Calve’s first meeting with Swami Vivekananda

Written by Web Admin. Posted in Anecdotes and Parables

Reproduced from New Discoveries, Vol. 1, pp. 484-86.

[The story of the first meeting of Swami Vivekananda and Madame Emma Calvé, as told in Calvé’s autobiography, My Life] . . .

[Swami Vivekananda] was lecturing in Chicago one year when I was there; and as I was at that time greatly depressed in mind and body, I decided to go to him. . . . Before going I had been told not to speak until he addressed me. When I entered the room, I stood before him in silence for a moment. He was seated in a noble attitude of meditation, his robe of saffron yellow falling in straight lines to the floor, his head swathed in a turban bent forward, his eyes on the ground. After a pause he spoke without looking up.

“My child”, he said, “what a troubled atmosphere you have about you. Be calm. It is essential”. Then in a quiet voice, untroubled and aloof, this man who did not even know my name talked to me of my secret problems and anxieties. He spoke of things that I thought were unknown even to my nearest friends. It seemed miraculous, supernatural.

“How do you know all this?” I asked at last. “Who has talked of me to you?” He looked at me with his quiet smile as though I were a child who had asked a foolish question. “No one has talked to me”, he answered gently. “Do you think that it is necessary? I read in you as in an open book.” Finally it was time for me to leave.

“You must forget”, he said as I rose. “Become gay and happy again. Build up your health. Do not dwell in silence upon your sorrows. Transmute your emotions into some form of external expression. Your spiritual health requires it. Your art demands it.” I left him deeply impressed by his words and his personality. He seemed to have emptied my brain of all its feverish complexities and placed there instead his clear and calming thoughts. I became once again vivacious and cheerful, thanks to the effect of his powerful will. He did not use any of the hypnotic or mesmeric influences. It was the strength of his character, the purity and intensity of his purpose that carried conviction. It seemed to me, when I came to know him better, that he lulled one’s chaotic thoughts into a state of peaceful acquiescence, so that one could give complete and undivided attention to his words.