International Forum for NeoVedantins

Life and Teachings of Swami Vivekananda: Part 6

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

Sri Ramakrishna Departs

In the month of October 1885 Sri Ramakrishna developed throat ailment, which subsequently proved to be incurable cancer of throat. The doctors gave up any hope of recovery, and there was, for the first time, an atmosphere of gloom, anxiety, and worry at Dakshineswar. Swami Vivekananda organized the team of his fellow brothers and devotees to take due care of Sri Ramakrishna. Timetables were set up so that someone would always be available for providing necessary help to Sri Ramakrishna and Ma Saradadevi (wife and spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna). The householder devotees on their part offered monetary and material help for Sri Ramakrishna's nursing, medicines, and food. Thus a nucleus of sangha - mission - evolved around Sri Ramakrishna in his presence with the help and efforts of his monk-like disciples, including Swami Vivekananda in particular.

In these critical days of his illness Sri Ramakrishna made certain important moves. He called Narendra and told him 'to take care of these boys', i.e. his brother disciples, lest they should go back to the worldly life. Swami Vivekananda was to become their leader and see to it that they were properly trained and cared for as sannyasins. Secondly, Sri Ramakrishna once wrote, 'Naren will teach.' Naren, at that time only 23 years of age, never dreamt of such a role in future life, but the telescopic vision of Sri Ramakrishna could see the future role of Swami Vivekananda as the world teacher and world leader. He said, "Naren, at present you may deny and protest, but I tell you, your very nature would get this work done through you. The Mother would see to that you spread Her message all over." Thus, the mantle of leadership fell on the broad, powerful, pure, and wise shoulders of Swami Vivekananda.

One day, about three days prior to his leaving this world, Sri Ramakrishna called Swami Vivekananda and transferred all his spiritual powers to him, saying, "O Naren, today I have given you everything I had, and have become a fakir, a pauper." And the last stroke was very touching, amusing a bit, and full of insight. Skepticism had not yet died down completely from the mind of Swami Vivekananda. One day, as he was sitting at the holy feet of his ailing Master, a thought arose in his mind, 'If now in this condition of distress Sri Ramakrishna tells me that he is Avatar Purusha, then I will accept him as the greatest of God Man." As soon as the thought arose in the mind of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishna, though weak and unable to get up, said, "Even now you have doubts. O Naren, the same Rama and the same Krishna are embodied in this body as Ramakrishna. I am speaking the truth."

Thus was completed the training, revelations, and transfer of spiritual powers from Sri Ramakrishna to his most able disciple for the welfare and benefit of the mankind. All doubts vanished from the heart and mind of Narendranath; he had become one with Sri Ramakrishna. Therefore, we say that Sri Ramakrishna's spiritual experiences and powers were so vast that they could not be contained in one body. It required three bodies, those of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Ma Saradadevi, and Swami Vivekananda (the Holy Trio) for its full expression.

Sri Ramakrishna left the worldly abode on 16th August 1886. To fulfill his Master's desire, Swami Vivekananda now rented an old house at Baranagore and converted it into a monastery, where all his grief-stricken (but firm in determination) brother disciples started staying in great atmosphere of brotherhood. Daily they worshiped Sri Ramakrishna in his photo image, and everyone shared the work of begging for the food, learning his message, and reading from the ancient scriptures, viz. the Gita and the Upanishads. The Ramakrishna Mission had come to life. What next?

The Soul Wants to Soar High

Swami Vivekananda's realization of the highest Truths, both in its formless and personal aspects, acted as 'theoretical' confirmation of the highest Vedantic principles as laid down in the Upanishads. They remained confined in the heart of Narendra making him aglow with effulgent divinity, but the condition of his mind was like a bird trapped in a golden cage. It wanted to spread its mighty wings all over, strengthened now with the power of nondual realizations and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna. It wanted to soar high in limitless sky to cover the whole humanity under its massive wings and make it aware of those invaluable truths.

The restlessness reached the stage when Swami Vivekananda could no longer confine himself to the four walls of Baranagore monastery. He intently desired to go into open world to learn more about practicality of Vedanta. How can Vedanta be applied in day-to-day life to alleviate the sufferings of the masses? Is it possible? Such and many similar questions crowded his mind from dawn to dusk and from dusk to dawn.

And one day, alone, sometime in July 1888, Swami Vivekananda left Calcutta telling his brother disciples not to follow him. Thus started the second important phase in the life of Swami Vivekananda, the Parivrajaka Monk, wandering years of the Swami. He went to Varanasi, Ayodhya, Vrindavan, Lucknow, Agra, and the Himalayas, thus covering the entire north of India. These are the great places of historical, socio-religious, and spiritual importance. These are the places connected with life and teachings of Sri Rama and Sri Krishna, Sita and Radha who glorified divine love and dharma as the final culmination of spiritual quest. The great Himalayas attracted him, where loneliness prevailed and called the sadhaka to be ready to merge in the glory of Infinite.

This was a short trip and the Swami returned to Calcutta in a few months' time. For sometime he remained in the company of his brother disciples trying to devise the means and the ways to propagate their Master's message to every nook and corner of India and the world, but his future plans could but be sketchy, for he didn't understand how to go about it. The force of knowledge was very great in his heart, acting like a silent bomb; when and where would it burst, no one knew. The restlessness could not be contained in the narrow confines of his head and heart; it must come out to cover all the sky. And hence, for the second time in around July 1891, he left his brothers to wander all over the country, after seeking blessings from Ma Saradadevi.
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