REMINISCENCES OF SWAMI VIVEKANANDA
J. RANSOME BRANSBY
(From the Unity Magazine, February 1900)
(An edited version of this is available in the Complete Works)
It was Bransby who invited Vivekananda to be his guest at the Home of Truth, Los Angeles.
Of all the Vedantist missionaries who have visited this country probably Vivekananda is the most widely known, because he has done the most public work here and was such a notable figure at the World’s Parliament of Religions at Chicago. The other Swamis who are working in America were sent here by Vivekananda, but all of them are either directly or indirectly the disciples of one great teacher, Ramakrishna, who was an extreme Ascetic and at the same time an illumined soul, one might almost be tempted to say in spite of his Asceticism, for the Swami Vivekananda after twenty years’ experience in Ascetic has come to the conclusion that it is a mistake and not the road that leads to freedom. The Swami himself looks anything but an Ascetic. He reminds one rather of the good hearty monks one reads about as having flourished at the time of the Crusades.
The Hindoo missionaries are not among us to convert us to a better religion that Christ gave us, but rather in the name of religion itself to show us that there is in reality but one religion, and that we can do no better than to put in practice what we profess to believe. We had eight lectures at the Home by Swami and all were intensely interesting, though a few malcontents complained because he did not give some short cuts into the Kingdom, and show an easy way to the attainment of mental powers; instead he would say, “Go home and promise yourself that you will not worry for a whole month even though the maid breaks all your best china.”
There is combined in the Swami Vivekananda the learning of a university president, the dignity of an archbishop, with the grace and winsomeness of a free natural child. Getting on the platform without a moment’s preparation he would soon be in the midst of his subject, sometimes becoming almost tragic as his mind would wander from deep meta-physics to the prevailing condition in Christian countries today who go and seek to reform Filipinos with the sword in one hand and the Bible in the other, or in South Africa allow children of the same father to cut each other to pieces. To contrast this condition of things he described what took place during the last famine in India where men would die of starvation beside their cattle rather than stretch forth a hand to kill. (Will UNITY readers remember the fifty million Hindoos who are starving today and send them a blessing?)
Instead of trying to give much of what we heard from the Swami direct, I will append a few of the sayings of his master, Ramakrishna, that will better indicate the nature of his teaching. His chief aim seems to be to encourage people loving in simple, quiet, wholesome lives — that the life shall be the religion, not something separate and apart.
To the true mother he gives the highest place, counting her as more to be esteemed than those who simply run around teaching. “Anyone can talk,” he said, “but if I had to look after a baby, I could not endure existence for more than three days.” Frequently he would speak of the “mother” as we speak of the “father,” and would say, “the mother will take care of us,” or “the mother will look after things.”
We had a lecture on Christmas day from the Swami entitled “Christ’s Mission to the World,” and a better one on this subject I never heard. No Christian minister could have presented Jesus as a character worthy the greatest reverence more eloquently or more powerfully than did this learned Hindoo, who told us that in this country on account of his dark skin he has been refused admission to hotels, and even barbers have sometimes objected to shave him. Is it any wonder that our “heathen” brethren never fail to make mention of this fact that even “our” Master was an Oriental?
J. RANSOME BRANSBY
A FEW OF THE SAYINGS OF RAMAKRISHNA
“Different creeds are but different paths to reach the Almighty.”
“As the lamp does not burn without oil, man cannot live without God.”
“God is in all men, but all men are not in God; that is the reason why they suffer.”
“The vanities of all others may die out gradually, but the vanity of a saint is hard indeed to wear away.”
“Where is God? How can we get at Him? There are pearls in the sea. One must dive again and again till one gets at them. So there is God in the world, but you should persevere in diving.”
When the knowledge of self is obtained, all fetters fall off by themselves. Then there is no distinction of a Brahman or a Sudra, of high caste or low caste. In that case the sacred thread, the sign of caste, falls away of itself.
“man is like a cushion cover. The color of one may be red, another blue, another black, but all contain the same cotton inside. So it is with man, one is beautiful, one is black, another holy, a fourth wicked;
Courtesy: Frank Parlato Jr.