Activities of the Ashrama along the lines laid down by Swami Vivekananda – "Atmano Mokshartham Jagadhitaya cha" or "for the liberation of self & welfare of the world."
On 15th Oct 1892, at 6 am a knock was heard at the door of an eminent lawyer of the city, Sadashiv Balakrishna Bhate. The door opened and there stood a young monk, tall and regal, with large sparkling eyes and radiant countenance. He introduced himself and handed over a letter from Mr Bhate’s friend, Mr Raosaheb Lakshman Rao Golvalkar, private secretary of the Kolhapur Maharaja. Though intrigued, the Bhate family welcomed him. Soon Bhate realized the wonderful guest that he had with him. He was rather an unconventional sannyasi. But he realized that he was well grounded in sanskrit, could even quote Panini’s Ashtadhyayi. Bhate quickly realized that he had a great person in his midst and so he called all the important people so that they could debate with him. He later took Swamiji to meet Haripada Mitra, who was sub divisional forest officer.
Haripada Mitra was an agnostic and thought of every sannyasi as a cheat. However when he conversed with him, he realized that the monk had nothing to ask of him. Impressed by this noble monk. Haripada begged him to stay with him. The swami said, “I am quite happy with the Maharashtrian. If I should leave after seeing a Bengali, he might be hurt. Besides, the family treats me with great love. But I will think about it and let you know”. However he promised to talk breakfast with him next day.
Next morning, Haripada Babu waited for a long time. Eventually, as the swami did not come, he went to Mr Bhate’s house to bring him. There he was surprised to see a large gathering of pleaders, pundits and prominent citizens asking Swamiji many questions. Saluting the swami, Haripada took his seat. He was amazed at the ready replies which the swami gave, without pause, in English, Hindi, Sanskrit and Bengali.
When the visitors left, the swami said. “I hope you excuse me for not keeping the appointment, You see, I could not go without hurting many people’s feelings.”
On being pressed again to move with Haripadababu, “I shall go if you can make my host agree to the proposal”. After much persuasion. Mr Bhate agreed. Among Swamiji’s belongings at that time was a book on French music that he was studying.
Hence he started his time in Haripada Mitra’s place. Once Swamiji became famous, we do not see him spend so much time with a householder and in this free manner. In his discussions well recorded by Haripada, we can see the heights that Swamiji’s mind was at.
Haripada Mitra did not allow him to leave and so Swamiji stayed in that house for a period of 9 days. Some of the discussions that Haripada Mitra had are very relevant even today. Let us cover some of these in Haripada Mitra’s words.
Once I asked him, “Why do sannyasis idle away their time? Why do they depend on the charity of others? Why don’t they undertake some work beneficial to society. The swamiji said,”Now, Look here. You are earning this money with such struggle, of which, only a little portion will you spend on yourself; and some of it you spend others who you think, are your own. But they neither acknowledge any gratefulness for what you do for them, nor are they satisfied with what they get. The balance you save like a mythological yaksha who never enjoys it. When you die, somebody else will enjoy it all; and perchance, he will abuse you for not having accumulated more. This is your condition. On the other hand, I do nothing. When I feel hungry, I let others know by gestures that I want food, and I eat whatever I get. Neither do I struggle nor do I save. Now, tell me, who among us is wiser, you are I”. I was astonished, for before this, nobody dared to talk like this so boldly and frankly.
Let us look at the statements of Swamiji for a moment. Is what he says not true for most householders? If only, we understand this, we will strive to have better ideals in our lives. If we observe carefully we notice that, he did change the lives of monks of the Order to do beneficial work for the society. It takes people of high attainments like Swamiji to be able to lead a completely God centred life, keeping the mind only on Personal or Impersonal ideal, living on what comes by chance, is not easy.
Continuing Haripada’s reminiscences, “Just then for some reason or other, I was not pulling on well with my superiors. Any little remark from them would make me lose my balance. Though, I had a lucrative job, I would not be happy even for a day. When I told Swamiji of my difficulty, he remarked, “Why are you in service? Is it because for the salary you get? You are getting it regularly every month; so why should you be upset? When you are free to resign, any moment, and nobody binds you down to it, why should you add to your miseries by thinking, oh, in what bondage am I placed! Another thing, will you tell me whether apart from doing work for which you draw the salary, did you ever do anything just to please your superiors? You never did so, and yet you are angry with them that they are not satisfied with you. Is that wise on your part? Know it for certain that the ideas we entertain about others express themselves through our conduct; and even though we may not be expressing these in words, people react accordingly. We see in the external world the same image that we carry in our hearts; nobody realizes how true the saying “The world is good when I am good is”. From today try to get rid of the habit of finding fault with others, and you will find the extent you succeed in this, the attitudes and reactions of others also change accordingly.”
One day sometime in 1902, in Belur Math, Swamiji came down and sat on the canvas cot under the mango tree in the courtyard, facing west, as he often did. The monks around him were busy with their activities. One was sweeping the courtyard with a broom. Swami Premananda was climbing the steps to the shrine after his bath. Suddenly Vivekananda’s eyes became radiant. Surcharged with spiritual fervour, he said to a disciple, “Where will you go to see Brahman? He is immanent in all Beings. Here, here is the visible Brahman! Shame on those who, neglecting the visible Brahman, set their minds on other things! Here is the visible Brahman before you as tangible as the fruit in one’s hand! Can’t you see? Here, here, here is Brahman!
These words struck people around him like an electric shock. For about fifteen minutes no one could move or function. Premananda went into ecstasy and others experienced peace and joy. At last, Vivekananda said to Premananda , “Now go to worship,” and all were released. The disciples were amazed to witness the spiritual power of Swami Vivekananda.
Swamiji explained this phenomenon on another occasion. “He who has realized Atman becomes a house of great power. From him as centre, and within a certain radius, emanates a spiritual force, and all those who come within this circle become animated with his ideas and are overwhelmed by them. Thus without much religious striving they inherit the results of his wonderful spirituality.”
Sister Nivedita sums up the compass of Swamiji’s work on the spiritual level:
“He stands merely as the Revealer, the Interpreter to India of the treasures that she herself possesses in herself. The truths he preaches would have been as true, had he never been born. Nay more, they would have been equally authentic. The difference would have lain in their difficulty of access, in their want of modern clearness and incisiveness of statement, and in their loss of mutual coherence and unity. Had he not lived, texts that today will carry the bread of life to thousands might have remained the obscure disputes of scholars. He taught with authority, and not as one of the Pundits. For he himself had plunged to the depths of the realization which he preached, and he came back like Ramanuja only to tell its secrets to the pariah, the outcast, and the foreigner.”
Swamiji himself best summed up the great impact of his work and mission about a year before his passing away: “What does it matter!”, he said, “I have given them enough for fifteen hundred years.” And what a mass of thought !
And, yet Swamiji was more, far, far more, than a brilliant intellect and a great spiritual power. Although he had become famous overnight throughout America at the Parliament of Religions and the doors of the rich were open to him, he wept over his victory, remembering his people at home, sunk in poverty and ignorance, for whose sake he had come to America. On the very night of his success at the Parliament of Religions, as he retired to bed, he cried out in despair, rolling in agony on the ground: “O Mother, what do I care for name and fame, when my motherland remains sunk in utmost poverty! To what a sad pass have we, poor Indians, come, when millions of us die for want of a handful of rice, and here they spend millions of rupees upon their personal comfort. Who will raise the masses of India? Who will give them bread? Show me, O Mother, how I can help them!” And that heart set in motion the foundation of a new form of Order in India – The Ramakrishna Mission – which performs yeoman service for the amelioration of the innumerable sufferings of the poor brethren of the Indian sub-continent – a mass of land that is home to almost fifth of humanity !
Even a single spark of Vivekananda is enough to set a mansion on fire – and yet, what a mighty flame that was ! A few hours before his passing away, Swamiji said: “If there were another Vivekananda, then he would have understood what this Vivekananda has done. And yet how many Vivekanandas shall be born in time?”
Rare indeed it is to come across such a brilliant intellect and such a magnanimous heart in a spiritual frame of such ethereal beauty !
Is it not a wonder that such a person stayed in this Ashrama for 8 long days?
It is for this reason that Ramakrishna Math and Mission has established this temple that can serve as a temple for spiritual and scientific progress of humanity. People who come within the radius of his influence will undoubtedly excel, be it in spiritual or scientific spheres.