Swami Vivekananda: The Universal Man - 3

Continued from Previous Page

His Work in America (1893 - 1896)

In New York - 1895

Gradually many interested followers started coming to the lodging room to listen to his talks. Some came out of curiosity, others were genuinely interested in knowing the eastern philosophical currents; particularly what did Hinduism mean. The Swami talked about the ancient teachings of Vedanta and related subjects in the Upanishads and the Gita: the nature of Spirit and God, the yoga and the meditation. He emphasized the all-encompassing non-sectarian nature of Hindu thought in its essence, and the universal message of not only toleration of various religious faiths, but also accepting each one as the true path to realize that Self.

Soon the hall started to fill up with increasing number of listeners; the followers started to occupy whatever place they could find - the marble topped tables, dressers, and even the steps on the staircase. The Swami sat on the floor, in a posture of a yogi - serene, tranquil, and calm. In the silence in the room, his voice reverberated with the mystical quality of his sermons and talks. Everyone tried to catch every word that came out from the bottom of swami's heart. Like an ancient Guru taking full responsibility of his devotees, the Swami taught them about basic spirituality underlying various sects and faiths. The offering of these valuable treasures was totally free, without carrying any fees or charges in exchange. Declining invitations to dine at his friends', the Swami and one of his disciples - Mr. Landsberg (later to become Swami Kripananda) - cooked their own simple food consisting of rice and vegetables, barley and beans.

Dedicating himself fully to the will of God, Swami Vivekananda started giving lectures in earnest, daily from 11 to 1 pm, and also took visitors whenever they knocked at his door. The questions were answered; the doubts were cleared. Some learnt the steps to meditation from this great yogi adept in that art. During such demonstrations, the Swami at times merged into higher states of samadhi, thus incidentally revealing the truth of what he preached. During his discourses he often used Sanskrit verses and hymns to emphasis a particular point. The gentle murmur, the sonorous humming of his songs and singing produced such a spiritual atmosphere that one was reminded of the piety and gaiety of the room of his master - Sri Ramakrishna - at Dakshineswar.

In the first half of 1895, Swami Vivekananda dealt largely with Raja and Jnana Yoga. He talked and emphasized the value of purity of thought, chastity of both body and mind, control of mind and senses as the prerequisite for the practice of Raja Yoga, and in general for the spiritual progress. He taught the path of practical spirituality. Such gems as "religion is realization," "each soul is potentially divine," and "religion is to manifest this divinity within," were dispersed amongst the eager seekers after the Truth. A few indeed could gather and make these precious teachings their own.

Through Jnana Yoga the Swami made clear the ultimate finality of renunciation and fearlessness through discrimination and non-attachment. These virtues or values were the natural outcome as one proceeded to seek the Truth. Vedanta was not mere rational and positive philosophy, but also practical religion to be realized or experienced, he maintained. The growth, progress, and development of individual character and personality were the natural outcome of spiritual practice. The final stage is the intuitive realization of the Absolute Consciousness by way of transcendental release into the realm of Total Freedom; freedom from the painful and sorrowful cycle of birth and death.

These talks made immense impact or impression on the audience, for, the subject matter was fresh, novel, and bearing impress of Truth. Moreover, the preacher himself had experienced these spiritual truths in his life at the holy feet of his Master, Sri Ramakrishna. During this period, in addition to the classes at his lodging room, Swami Vivekananda also spoke to small gatherings in and around New York. For instance, he held Sunday classes at Miss Corbin's, Mrs. Andrew's, spoke on "Vedanta Philosophy" at the house of A. L. Barber at 871 Fifty Avenue, Dixon Society, Metaphysical Society at Hartford, Conn. ("Soul and God"); Motts Memorial building at 64 Madison Avenue ("The Science of Religion"), etc.

The selected disciples who were impressed by the Swami's talks and teachings include among others - 1) Miss Laura Glenn (later to become Sister Devamata), 2) Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 3) Mme. Marie Louise, 4) Lean Landsberg, 5) Mrs. Ole Bull, 6) Dr. Allan Day, 7) Miss S. Ellen Waldo, 8) Miss Mary Phillips, 9) Professor Wyman, 10) Harvard University Professor John Henry Wright, 11) Dr Street (later to become Swami Yogananda), 12) Mr. Francis Legget, 13) Mrs. Sturges, 14) Miss Josephine MacLeod, 15) Dr. and Mrs. Egbert Guernsey, 16) Emma Thursby, and 17) 'faithful' Goodwin.

During the first six months of this stay in New York, between January 1895 and June 1895, Swami Vivekananda took holiday twice. He visited and rested for two weeks in the month of April at Ridgley Manor on the Hudson River at the invitation of Mr. Legget. Later in the first week of June he went to Camp Percy near a lake in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. There he meditated and studied the Hindu Scriptures including the Gita and the Upanishads. Refreshed from the rest, but still feeling unexplained restlessness from constant talks and speeches, the Swami felt the need to go into seclusion, for the spirit of sannyasin was uppermost in his mind. That opportunity came soon.

At the Thousand Island Park: The Inspired Talks

One Miss Dutcher, a devoted student of the Swami, owned a small cottage at Thousand Island Park, a village situated on Wellesley Island of the St. Lawrence River. She volunteered to offer her cottage for the Swami to rest as well as to teach as many devotees as can be accommodated in the cottage. Twelve sincere and real devotees agreed to the proposal, and Swami Vivekananda also felt it as an opportunity to instill some real and serious thoughts of Vedanta in the hearts of those intimate learners. For, it was but natural that only those would venture to come to such a far off remote island, who were really interested in his message and teachings.

Soon the plan was given the shape by way of additional modifications to the cottage. A separate room, entry, and privacy were arranged for the Swami. And there was enough room for twelve members to stay with some adjustment. The talks, "The Inspired Talks", as they came to be known, started from 19th June 1895 through second week of August. Thus for seven weeks the Swami inspired this sincere batch with the Advaita teachings of Upanishads, The Gita, and even of various scriptures of Christian faith. The impact of these talks, which the Swami delivered from a higher plane of consciousness, inspired his disciples, as he himself was, in this great mission. He initiated all these devotees by giving them a Mantra and two of these disciples later took vows of sannyasa, and five more were initiated as Brahmacharinis.

Later, one of the participants wrote: "It was a perpetual inspiration to live with a man like Swami Vivekananda. From morning till night it was ever the same, we lived in a constant atmosphere of intense spirituality. ...Those ideas were new and strange to us, and we were slow in assimilating them, but the Swami's patience never flagged, his enthusiasm never waned."

The message of Swami Vivekananda was:

Renunciation of sense gratification, sincere search for higher Self, and manifestation of our inner divinity based on true discrimination is the ideal for this age. Try to seek Freedom from 'this indecent clinging to life,' the bondage in which Maya has caught us, in which Maya has enmeshed all mankind. Sooner or later the opportunity to escape will come to all, but to make conscious and deliberate effort is the beginning of religion.

And one would not be surprised if one were told that within minutes the Swami, established as he was in his higher plane of consciousness, created "The Song of The Sannyasin":

Strike off thy fetter! Bonds that bind thee down,
Of shining gold, or darker, baser ore;
Love, hate - good, bad - and all the dual throng.
Know, slave is slave, caressed or whipped, not free;
For fetters though of gold, are not less strong to bind;
Then off with them, sannyasin bold! Say -
"Om Tat Sat, Om!"

Few only know the Truth. The rest will hate
And laugh at thee, great one; but pay no heed.
Go thou, the free, from place to place, and help
Them out of darkness, Maya's veil. Without
The fear of pain or search pleasure, go
Beyond them both, sannyasin bold! Say -
"Om Tat Sat, Om!"

First Visit to England and Europe

On August 7, 1895 Swami Vivekananda left The Thousand Island Park for New York, and from there he was to make that historic first visit to England and Europe. He had received two invitations, one from Miss F. Henrietta Muller and the other from Mr. E. T. Sturdy, to visit and enlighten the British people. The Swami was to be their guest of honor during his stay in London. Mr. Sturdy had lived in India, and also had known Swami Shivananda, and from him about his brother-disciple Swami Vivekananda. For about ten days the Swami was busy in New York making arrangements for his first stop at Paris. From there he was to go to England. Mr. Francis Legget was to accompany him in the voyage. Accordingly the Swami sailed from New York on 17th August 1895 to reach Paris on 24th.

For most part his Paris visit was for rest and as a pleasure trip. But Swamiji did not lose the opportunity to get acquainted with the culture and history of France. Mrs. Sturges and Miss MacLeod gave him the company, as they knew Paris well. They conducted him on various tours visiting the world-renowned art galleries, museums, churches, cathedrals, and other places of import. The high culture and historical background filled the Swami's heart with admiration. He also met a few renowned intellectuals and personage of fame, discussing with them the various cultural and spiritual aspects of the two nations.

In these days the Swami received letters from Indian friends that the Missionaries were bent on criticizing his life, eating habits, conduct and teachings. The orthodox Hindus were thus skeptical about his mission in the West. To such criticism Swami Vivekananda wrote to his disciple friend Alasinga Perumal in Madras:

"I am surprised you take the missionaries' nonsense seriously... if the missionaries tell you that I have ever broken the two great vows of the sannyasin - chastity and poverty - tell then that they are big liars.

...I do not stand at anybody's dictation. I know my mission in life, and no chauvinism about me; I belong as much to the world as to India, no humbug about that... What country has any special claim on me? Am I any nation's salve?

I see a greater Power than man, or God, or devil, at my back..."

This letter shows Swami Vivekananda in his true spirit: a fearless sannyasin. The Christian Missionaries mattered to the narrow-minded people; but for Swami Vivekananda, the matter required to be viewed from the broadest possible perspective.

Consequent upon these thoughts, and also the fact that he was coming from a subject nation to preach Hinduism to the nation of rulers, the Swami had some apprehension as to how he would be received by the people of England. Would they not look at him with contempt, and criticize his missionary zeal? But to his surprise he was received with great warmth and courtesy, bordering on respect. 'Later on, this uncertainty would give place to wonder and gratification at his singular and immediate success.'

In London

Swami Vivekananda reached London in the second week of September 1895. Many friends, Mr. Sturdy and Miss Muller being the main, received him in London. Initially he stayed as Miss Muller's guest at Juan Duff House, Regent Street Cambridge. Later he moved to Mr. Sturdy's house at High View, Caversham, Reading - some thirty-six miles southwest of London. Here he stayed for six weeks and paid visits to many places of historic importance and artistic interest. He also had high-level philosophical discussions with his friends and new introductions, and he translated Naradiya Bhakti Sutra into English as well. For most time in September and October 1895, the Swami lived quietly at Reading; for 'the London season was not open yet, and Mr. Sturdy wanted him to go slowly and build on a sure foundation rather than make a good deal of noise for nothing.'

The English people received him warmly and gladly. They were civil and polite towards him; he felt 'at home' in England. In the late October, two of his friends decided to arrange his first lecture. Accordingly, the Swami delivered his first speech at Prince's Hall, Piccadilly on 22nd October; the subject being "Self-Knowledge". It was a tremendous success, as many people attended and appreciated his talk. Favorable reports appeared the next day in morning newspapers - The Standard wrote: "Since the days of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, and Keshab Chandra Sen, there has not appeared on an English platform a more interesting Indian figure than the Hindu who lectured in Prince's Hall..."

The London Daily Chronicle wrote:

"Vivekananda, the popular Hindu monk, whose physiognomy bore the most striking resemblance to the classic face of Buddha, denounced our commercial prosperity, our bloody wars, and our religious intolerance, declaring that at such a price the mild Hindu would have none of our vaunted civilization."

Swami Vivekananda also gave one interview to the "Westminster Gazette". It was published under the title "An Indian Yogi in London". In this interview the swami had a long discussion pertaining to the concept and need of renunciation and sannyasa, with particular reference to his life. He elaborated the influence of the teachings and life of his Master, to wit - Sri Ramakrishna; that he did not believe in starting a new sect, but such fellowship and foundation as would encompass and form the basis for all the religious faiths. He was interested in giving 'general outline of Vedanta and to let each apply them to his own concrete forms'. Truth is that which stands the day of light anywhere and everywhere, and that which stands on its own authority.

In his own words: "I propound a philosophy, which can serve as a basis to every possible religious system in the world, and my attitude is one of extreme sympathy - my teaching is antagonistic to none. I direct my attention to the individual, to make him strong, to teach him that he himself is divine, and I call upon men to make themselves conscious of this divinity within."

And this was what the correspondent felt when he felt after the interview: "I then took my leave from one of the most original of men that I have had the honour of meeting."

Following such spread about the swami's personality, influence, and grasp of spirituality, people started coming to him for discussions, seek instructions, and just to pay courtesy visits and satisfy their curiosity. Swami Vivekananda was satisfied that the British people did not reject him or his teachings. And thus in the following month, the short stay that was possible in England, the swami laid the firm foundation for future work and made a deep and lasting impression upon those whom he met. Thus his lecture at Prince's Hall on October 22, 1895 marks the beginning of his work in Europe.

He held number of talks in the last week of this October - the Chelsea residence of the Rev. H. R. Haweis, residence of Mr. Chemier, at Maidenhead, and stayed at 80 (61) Oakley Street, Chelsea from October 29th. He held about eight classes per week apart from public lectures. The people sat on floor for want of space without feeling any inconvenience. He spoke on 'Indian Philosophy and Western Society' on November 5, in front of a select audience of scientists; on 10th November he talked on 'The Basis of Vedanta Morality' before Ethical Society of Moncure Conway at South Place Chapel.

His Meeting with Margaret Noble

It was in the month of November 1895 that Swami Vivekananda met Margaret Noble; later to become his most devoted disciple - Sister Nivedita. The Swami was seated on the floor of West End drawing room in meditative pose, his face radiant with dignity and poise, childlike simplicity and calm radiating spiritual aura. Margaret Noble was one of them listening to the celestial words of the Swami who was elaborating ancient wisdom of Upanishads and Vedanta to the small group:

'Friends, your Church is true, our temples are true, and true is Brahman, formless and eternal, beyond the two. Time has come when nations would exchange their spiritual ideals as treasures, as they are already exchanging the commodities of the market. These ideals are but various impressions in different modes of manifestation of the One. 'All these are threaded upon Me, like pearls upon a string', so says the Lord in The Gita. Love is the highest virtue, love knows of giving alone, never expecting anything in return. Love God, but don't barter worldly pleasures and comforts in exchange for that.'

Those words were full with deep meaning about true religion; words sweet yet foreign to this educated, literate, bold, and intelligent lady. The words full with wisdom of ancient Hindu thought entered her mind as the Swami continued: Man proceeds from lower truth to higher truth, and not from error to truth. This growth in search of higher and still higher truth is what religion is all about. The mind rebels and refuses to accept the truth. The words continued to make impact on Margaret; as if she continued to listen to the words of her master in the state of ecstasy: "You must have heard the mischievous word Maya..."

It took the Swami full four lectures to elaborate and bring home the concept of Maya, but still, Sister Nivedita wondered as to how many really understood the intricacies of it. The struggle that Sister Nivedita perceived in the life of her Master was an effort of translating superconscious into practical life. She remembered Sri Ramakrishna mildly rebuking his beloved disciple 'I thought you had been born for something greater my boy' when Swami Vivekananda was put the question 'Naren, what is your highest ambition' and he had answered 'to remain always in samadhi'.

Thus continued the teaching of a disciple in the lecture series through 1895 and the second visit to London in 1896. In those few days Sister Nivedita realized the whole ancient realm of Indian spirituality dating back to 5000 BCE. The words like Atman, Brahman, Self, Maya, Ishwara, God, Realization etc. opened up new vistas in front of her inner eyes, like flowers arranged in a wonderful bouquet by a deft artist. Listening led to contemplation that merged into mediation, and soon Nivedita left everything comfortable in her land of birth and accompanied her Master to reach the shores of India. Yes, the land of spirituality, but afflicted with poverty, want, disease, ignorance, and burden. The only force of attraction for her was Vedanta as preached to her by none other than her venerable Master, Swami Vivekananda.

More about Swami Vivekananda's Work in Britain

During the month of November, Swami Vivekananda gave many more lectures and talks in which the swami brought forth the ideas of benefits and flaws of religious organizations. He said: "It is well to be born in a Church, but it is terrible to die there,' symbolizing the narrowness and fossilization that creeps in organized religions and precepts. It is true that initially such 'family' of like-minded brothers and sisters encourages and benefits the aspirant to progress in his/her austerities, study, practice, and faith, but it also imposes restrictions for the full realization of divine potential. Later, the swami did organize the 'Ramakrishna Order', maintaining that he had done so to spread the message of his Master even at the cost of losing some depth of his teachings. He felt that the need of the hour was to make Sri Ramakrishna's teachings and sayings 'broadcast' in every direction, in every layer of the society, so that the masses can stand the drift away from spirituality in the face of powerful currents of science and materialism. Swami Vivekananda was more than pleased with his work in England, as can be seen from his letters written to his friends in India. "In England my work is really splendid," he wrote.

Back to America: Consolidating the Gains There

Meanwhile in the midst of his work in England, Swami Vivekananda received letters and messages from his disciples and friends in America to the effect that in his absence the American work was suffering, losing direction and force. The swami was pulled on one side by the American friends, and on the other by the British insistence to stay in England! As a compromise, the swami decided to call one of his brother disciples from India (Turiyananda, Saradananda, Abhedananda) to England to continue the work there, and he himself left again for the United States of America (27th November 1895), promising the British people he would come again.

In his absence of nearly four months, his friends and disciples, notably Swami Kripananda, Mme. Marie Louise and Leon Landsberg, had continued the work in America. In the early months of 1896, the swami consolidated the mains during 1895. Mr. Josiah J. Goodwin constantly accompanied the Swami and faithfully noted down every word the swami spoke at lectures and discourses. Thus, we owe much to him for the recorded details of swami's words.

In New York Again

Swami Vivekananda delivered a series of lectures in a short span after his arrival back to USA. Beginning from January 1896, the lectures were - "The ideal of Universal Religion," "The Cosmos: The Macrocosm," "The Cosmos: The Microcosm," "Immortality," ad so on. He continued with his classes and instructed the disciples about Yoga, and also helped in free translation and running commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Furthering his exposition of paths to purification of mind and realization of Self, the swami now talked on Karma Yoga, Bhakti, and Jnana. A year back he had already talked about Raja Yoga. Thus, for the first time, the swami attempted a neat, systematic, and complete elucidation of all the four yogas mentioned in the Scriptures, the Gita, and the Puranas. This unique contribution of Swami Vivekananda to elaborate different means for differing likings and aptitudes of the aspirants, and emphasizing the utility of combining these yogas suitable to the spiritual aspirants, can be seen as the new contribution and fresh wave in Vedanta.

The swami's success in America did not come easily. Many attempts were made to malign/tarnish his image by raising doubts about his intentions and even character. But the swami remained unruffled and calm. His disciples wrote in the columns of the newspapers and journals and won the war against narrow-minded distracters.

The swami's fame spread from one place to the next, from one corner to the other. Attendance at his lectures and public meetings significantly increased, reaching more than 1500 people at Madison Square. This "Lightning Orator" gave lectures on (February 1896) "Bhakti Yoga," "The Real and Apparent man," "My Master," "The Hindu Conception of God: the Atman," and many more. Swami Kripananda wrote in his letter dated 19th February, "People are quick to appreciate the grandeur and beauty of a system (Vedanta), which equally as a philosophy and religion appeals to the heart as well as to the reason, and satisfies all the religious cravings of human nature..."

To Detroit

In February 1896 The Swami gave formal shape to the first Vedanta Society (of New York) in America. The work was organized to speed up the maintenance of accounts, distribution of books and literature, planning his lectures and discourses, and most importantly, to invite members of 'all religious creeds and organizations to become students of Vedanta without a change of faith'. 'Toleration and acceptance of all religion' was the watchword. Mr. Francis H. Legget was appointed as the president, while Miss Mary Philips was chosen as the secretary of this Vedanta Society. Miss Waldo, Mrs. Arthur Smith, Mr. And Mrs. Walter Goodyear, and Miss Emma Thursby counted themselves as dedicated workers.

Through this, the swami envisaged an interchange of ideals and ideas between the east and the west. He felt that this would reduce the friction and bias born out of strangeness between the two worlds. In exchange for the spiritual outpourings from the east, the swami dreamt of transport of the message of science, industry, economics, applied sociology, organization, and cooperation, and such highly evolved ideologies of the west to the east. The Vedanta would offer the necessary common platform for the eastern and the western people to meet, the swami believed.

In March 1896 the swami left for Detroit, where he stayed for two weeks. During this short stay he conducted twenty-two classes and gave three public lectures. These included: "The Ideal of a Universal Religion," in two sessions, and on March 15th - "India's Message to the World". His lectures were very well received; the organizers finding it difficult to accommodate the crowd! The swami had a spiritual aura about him; he was full with bhakti, and was spiritually at a very high level of expression. The listeners were inspired by his mere presence, his words adding the necessary finish.

To Boston 

In the second half of March 1896, the swami went to Boston and stayed there for another two weeks. Here he spoke before the most prestigious and highly intellectual class of people of America: The Professors and scholars of the Graduate Philosophical Club of Harvard University. Swami's most devoted disciple, Mrs. Bull, had arranged the lectures, ably supported by equally respectful Professor John Henry Wright. The Swami spoke on "The Vedanta Philosophy" on 25th March before the club where such distinguished thinkers as George H. Palmer, William James, Josiah Royce, Hugo Munsterberg, and young George Santayana were present.

Swami Vivekananda was at his best in bringing forth the essence of Vedanta philosophy, and made an indelible impression on the minds of the learned professors and scholars. Indeed, the Swami was offered the prestigious 'Chair of Eastern Philosophy' in the university, which the sannyasin did not accept! The lecture was followed by critical evaluation of the eastern thought in all its ramifications, in particular Vedanta, by way of question and answer sessions, and criticism and discussions. Reverend C. C. Everett, Dean of the Harvard Divinity School wrote:

"There are indeed few departments of study more attractive than the Hindu thought. ...Vedanta System is not to be regarded merely as a curiosity, as a speculative vagary. We Occidentals busy ourselves with the manifold. We can, however, have no understanding of the manifold, if we have no sense of the One in which the manifold exists. The reality of the One is the truth, which the East may well teach us; and we owe a debt of gratitude to Vivekananda that he taught this lesson so efficiently."

Such and more reports appeared, with full praise for the Swami, in many more journals, magazines, periodicals, and newspapers. The swami's answers, after the lectures, were sincere, erudite, emotionally appealing, and impromptu. Full with eloquence, and penetrating with truth, freshness, vitality, and wit these lectures affected the curious minds with a force that was great, but always gentle and never disturbing. Speaking on Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and other Yogas, the Swami emphasized the need to understand the limitations of mind and senses, including emotions and feelings; even in their all-encompassing realm of esthetic expressions: art, music, painting, science, and literature! The bliss and beauty of Atman was incomparable with any of these, to say the least. Every art, every scientific truth is surely worthy of experience and knowledge, but Vedanta preaches a state beyond all these, the state where hypnotic spell of mind and matter vanishes into inexplicable Freedom.

But, it is indeed very difficult, even to think of such state, let alone, try to attain to it; hypnotized as we are by the magic of this world.

To Chicago and Back to New York

From Boston, the swami traveled to Chicago on March 30. Here also he remained for about two weeks before returning to New York. In Chicago he conducted many classes arranged by his friends. However, soon his health was not all that good; he felt the strain of his arduous tours and lectures, and thus, he soon returned to New York for rest and planning the future course of action (13th April 1896).

In New York, the swami busied himself with editing and perfecting the Harvard Lectures, and adding explanatory notes to them, for they were to be printed soon. The swami was constantly mindful and thoughtful of the need to 'systematize his religious ideas'. He felt it necessary to reorganize the whole Hindu philosophy in such a way as would become intellectually appealing and to the western mind and psyche. Of course, Vedanta was firm base, but the swami wanted to reconcile the dualism, qualified monism, and Advaita Vedanta into a grand synthesis of truth. Each has its own place, a necessity, depending on the faiths, beliefs, and the customs of the different sections of the people, he maintained. It was necessary to show the Vedanta in every religion, for Vedanta was not only the practical, but also the philosophical basis of every religion. The Indian sects like the Shaivaite, the Shakta, the Vaishnava, and the followers of religious faiths practiced but one denomination of Vedanta. 'His first and immediate task was to remodel the Indian thought forms they contained along the lines acceptable to modern intellect of the west.' He insisted that 'Hindu spiritual ideas were truly scientific as well. Thus, he tried to bring closeness between the progress of science and the Hindu spiritual philosophy.

Second Visit to England

The first phase of American work came to an end about middle of 1896, and Swami Vivekananda decided to revisit England. Accordingly he left America in July and reached England on 17th September 1896. He stayed here for about three months and left for India in the month of December 1896. His second visit to England, in fact, was more fruitful and intense as far as his work was concerned. During this short stay, the Swami delivered eight very important lectures that projected his clarity of the intricacies of Vedanta in its all ramifications culminating into the full-blown flower of Advaita. More importantly, as a consequence of the substance of and mastery over the subject, he could push forward his plan for the western world to put Vedanta into practice in daily life. Out of these lectures four were on "Maya" and the other for on "Practical Vedanta". Margaret Noble, later to become Sister Nivedita, was highly impressed by his knowledge and spiritual personality now accepted Swami Vivekananda as her Master and decided to dedicate her life in the service of the poor and the education for girls in India. Similarly, Mr. and Mrs. Sevier also became his disciples and came to India to work and take up the full responsibility of managing and running the Advaita Ashrama at Mayavati in the district of Almora at the foot-hills of the Himalayas.

In his lectures on "Maya" the Swami elaborated the concept of Maya as not something illusory, not something that does not exist, but as 'it is a statement of fact about the world as one perceives it.' Such simplicity of definition could come only from someone who has fully comprehended the essence of Universal Philosophical thought. On the basis of such understanding the Swami came to the conclusion that 1) The aim of human life is to realize our true divine nature, and 2) as a natural consequence of this, the person should be able to render selfless service, to enrich the world of values, and to effect the welfare of all from the manifestation of one's divinity.

Thus, Practical Vedanta is the method to struggle to realize and manifest our Divine Nature. In this way was born the Motto of Ramakrishna Order: Atmano Mokshartham Jagad-hitayacha - For the liberation of self and welfare of the world.

Return to India 

After triumphant success in spreading India's message of Advaita Vedanta - Eternal Truth of Eternal Religion - Swami Vivekananda returned to India on 15th January 1897.    

The End.

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