International Forum for NeoVedantins

Life and Teachings of Swami Vivekananda: Part 2

Swami Vivekananda: The Universal Man
[B. 12 January 1863; S. 4 July 1902]
Narendra = Narendranath = Naren = Swami Vivekananda
Master = Thakur = Sri Ramakrishna

Narendra Meets Sri Ramakrishna

In the year 1881 Narendra met Sri Ramakrishna for the first time. As it happened, Sri Ramakrishna had gone to Calcutta to one of his devotee's house. It was near Narendra's. Devotional songs were to be sung there; but the singer didn't turn up for the programme. Surendra and Ram, householder devotees of Sri Ramakrishna and friends of Swami Vivekananda, thought of inviting Narendra to fill up the gap, for they knew the high capabilities of Narendra in singing and playing musical instruments. Thus came our "hero" to the house of the devotee and treated the audience, especially Sri Ramakrishna, to many devotional songs. Sri Ramakrishna was highly impressed and invited young Narendra to Dakshineswar. Thus ended the first meeting between Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, the chief future playmate in Sri Ramakrishna's divine sport.

Meanwhile, Vishwanath Dutta thought of arranging marriage of his son, but Narendra refused, for he wanted to pursue the path of spiritual enlightenment. Ram, a close relative and friend of Narendra, suggested him to meet Sri Ramakrishna to know more about religion and spirituality. Surendra, another friend, too suggested the same thing and the three friends one day went to Dakshineswar.

Sri Ramakrishna asked him to sing a song. Narendra began to sing one of the most touching songs in Bengali. The first lines went like this: 'O mind, come; let us go home. Why do you travel in the foreign land of the world in a foreigner's garb?' Sri Ramakrishna was visibly moved by the sincerity and quality of Narendra's singing. Tears welled up in the eyes of Sri Ramakrishna, and he thus lovingly got acquainted with Narendra. Sri Ramakrishna treated him with utmost love and familiarity, as if they knew each other intimately and were meeting not as strangers but as close old friends.

Later Sri Ramakrishna got up and said, "O Narayana, why did you take such long to come here? I have been restlessly waiting for you since long." Thus saying, he escorted Narendra to inner room and fed him sweets and other eatables with his own hands. Naturally Swami Vivekananda was puzzled to receive this kind of treatment; this was not a natural reaction between two strangers.

Commenting about his first visit to Dakshineswar later, Narendra said, "It was most unusual kind of meeting. I could not understand the peculiar behaviour of that 'mad, monomaniac Brahmin'. I was reluctant to visit him again, but his pure love, simplicity, genuine renunciation and love for God pulled me again and again to him, despite protests of logic and reason."

Sri Ramakrishna invited Narendra to visit Dakshineswar again at his earliest convenience. Moreover, once Narendra's English teacher in his lecture had told the students to visit Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa at Dakshineswar if they wanted to know the exact meaning of the word 'trance', for Sri Ramakrishna often experienced that superconscious state of samadhi. Accordingly, one month after his first visit, Narendra went to Dakshineswar again.

The Teacher and the Disciple

The great soul in Narendranath readily recognized the extraordinary greatness in Sri Ramakrishna in the form of true love for God and great renunciation. However, his skepticism and logical mind was not ready to accept the 'powers' manifested in Sri Ramakrishna. He thought that the 'simple insane' Brahmin might be playing tricks with others in the form of hypnotism or mesmerism. His trance and samadhi were thought to be the whims and play of mind rather than divine superconscious states. In fact Swami Vivekananda postponed his second visit to Dakshineswar for about one month, although he had promised Sri Ramakrishna to visit him soon.

But at last the call of Divine was far too powerful for Narendra to resist anymore. And one afternoon, alone on foot, he started for the second meeting with his mentor, and would be Guru. And what did he say? He asked, "Sir, have you seen God?" Calmly Sri Ramakrishna replied, "Yes, I see Him as clearly as one sees an apple over the palm; nay, even more intently. And not only this, you can also see Him." This unusual and most confident answer turned Narendra to more perplexity and surprise. He had been asking the same question 'Sir, have you seen God' to many a great religious and noble person, but he never got such clear cut answer from any one of them. Many religious Pundits, Devendranath Tagore and scholars of Brahmo Movement were reluctant to answer his question with any authority or resoluteness. But that day he got the most emphatic answer in positive.

Sri Ramakrishna was sitting all alone. He was very pleased to receive Narendranath and called him near his tiny bedstead. Sri Ramakrishna went into a divine mood and touched Narendra with his right foot. Immediately Narendra had a wonderful experience, which is given in his own words:

"I saw with my eyes open that all the things of the room together with the walls were rapidly whirling and receding into an unknown region, and my I-ness together with the whole universe was, as it were, going to vanish in an all devouring great void. I was then overwhelmed with terrible fear. I knew that the destruction of I-ness was death, so I thought that death was before me, very near at hand. Unable to control myself, I cried out loudly, saying, 'ah. What is it you have done to me? I have my parents, you know.'"

Laughing loudly at his words, Sri Ramakrishna touched Narendra's chest with his hand and said, "Let it then cease now. It need not be done all at once. It will come to pass in course of time." Swami Vivekananda was amazed to notice how that extraordinary experience vanished as quickly as it had come. He came to normal state and saw things inside and outside the room standing still as before.
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