International Forum for NeoVedantins

Life and Teachings of Swami Vivekananda: Part 3

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

Learning at the Holy Feet of Sri Ramakrishna

Narendra was sure that that was no hypnotism, for he thought himself endowed with solid will- power and self-confidence, and that his mind could not be affected by anyone.

But equally true was the fact, Narendra realized, that he could not consider this person (Sri Ramakrishna) mad, when he could shatter to pieces the structure of a mind like his, possessing a strong and powerful will and firm convictions. As if Sri Ramakrishna could refashion Narendra's mind like a ball of soft clay into any pattern as it pleased him. Subsequently Narendra decided to remain on guard, and to further explore the reality about Sri Ramakrishna. He kept the final judgment about this 'wonderful madman' pending for the future.

The third visit followed much earlier than the second one. This time Sri Ramakrishna asked Narendra to accompany him to the nearby garden of Jadu Mallick. Here these two persons, Sri Ramakrishna and his would be disciple, were left all alone. Sri Ramakrishna went into ecstatic mood and elevated Narendra to such a state of consciousness where Narendra lost his body consciousness but could answer the questions put by Sri Ramakrishna. Narendra did not remember anything about this episode, but Sri Ramakrishna later told his devotees that on that day he put many intimate questions to Narendra and got answers to them all. He asked Narendra about the purpose of his descent on the earth, the nature of his work in the future, his plans and mission in life and so on. On the basis of these questions Sri Ramakrishna came to know that Narendra would lead life of a monk and would leave his body when he comes to know his true nature. Sri Ramakrishna knew that Narendra was ever-perfected soul - nitya siddha - in meditation.

Change of Views

After this meeting Narendra was forced to change many of his preconceived notions about God, divinity, and perfected souls. He had formerly a great objection, as most of us have, to accept another man as a Guru or a spiritual guide. This is because we think that the person whom we accept as our Guru might turn out to be an ordinary man full of inherent weaknesses of lust and gold. But after coming in contact with Sri Ramakrishna, Narendra understood that such great souls with complete renunciation, selflessness, and compassion, though rare, actually are born in the world - souls with extraordinary purity, love, and penance - that shake the limited conception about God and God-Man existing in the little mind and intellect of we ordinary people. Therefore, if they are accepted as Gurus, ordinary men are benefited, and not harmed.

Consequently Narendra was ready to accept Sri Ramakrishna as his Guru, but still he could not go so far as to accept indiscriminately whatever Sri Ramakrishna said. As Swami Saradananda writes, "A powerful mind feels strong resistance from within when, at the time of accepting new truth, it has to change its former convictions. Narendranath was in that predicament. Though acquainted with Sri Ramakrishna's wonderful powers, he could not completely accept him, and though feeling attracted, he tried to stand aloof from him."

Narendra started visiting Sri Ramakrishna more frequently. Soon he got acquainted with a few more sincere disciples who had already decided to dedicate their lives at the Holy feet of Sri Ramakrishna. These meetings with the Master were full of fun and joy, pleasure and gaiety, and there was never a shadow of gloom, dejection, despair, or worry. It was always 'Ananda Mela' (joyous gathering) at Dakshineswar. Sri Ramakrishna used to 'teach' in simple language through parables and stories. There was no feeling that Sri Ramakrishna was the Guru, and all the disciples looked upon him as their wise friend with huge spiritual knowledge born out of innumerable spiritual experiences.

[A few of the disciples visited Sri Ramakrishna daily, others at varying intervals. There was no restriction or compulsion on any one. Sri Ramakrishna used to emphasis the importance of love for God, austerities, sadhana, renunciation, continence, and purity to get spiritual insights. Besides these sincere 'monk like' disciples belonging to 'inner circle', many householder devotees, sadhus, fakirs, and lay people visited Kali Temple daily.]

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