PERSONS: The Swami Vivekananda, Gurubhais, (Spiritual brethren; disciples of one and the same master are so called.) and a party of European guests and disciples, amongst whom were Dhira Mata, the “Steady Mother” [Mrs. Ole Bull]; one whose name was Jaya [Miss Josephine MacLeod]; and Sister Nivedita. (Dhira Mata and Jaya were Americans; Nivedita was British. — Publisher.)
PLACE: Different parts of India.
TIME: The year 1898.
Beautiful have been the days of this year. In them the Ideal has become the Real. First in our riverside cottage at Belur; then in the Himalayas, at Naini Tal and Almora; afterwards wandering here and there through Kashmir — everywhere have come hours never to be forgotten, words that will echo through our lives forever, and once, at least, a glimpse of the Beatific Vision.
It has been all play.
We have seen a love that would be one with the humblest and most ignorant, seeing the world for the moment through his eyes, as if criticism were not; we have laughed over the colossal caprice of genius; we have warmed ourselves at heroic fires; and we have been present, as it were, at the awakening of the Holy Child.
But there has been nothing grim or serious about any of these things. Pain has come close to all of us. Solemn anniversaries have been and gone. But sorrow was lifted into a golden light, where it was made radiant and did not destroy.
Fain, if I could, would I describe our journeys. Even as I write I see the irises in bloom at Baramulla; the young rice beneath the poplars at Islamabad; starlight scenes in Himalayan forests; and the royal beauties of Delhi and the Taj. One longs to attempt some memorial of these. It would be worse than useless. Not, then, in words, but in the light of memory they are enshrined forever, together with the kindly and gentle folk who dwell among them and whom we trust always to have left the gladder for our coming.
We have learnt something of the mood in which new faiths are born and of the persons who inspire such faiths. For we have been with one who drew all men to him — listening to all, feeling with all and refusing none. We have known a humility that wiped out all littleness, a renunciation that would die for scorn of oppression and pity of the oppressed, a love that would bless even the oncoming feet of torture and of death. We have joined hands with that woman who washed the feet of the Lord with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head. We have lacked not the occasion, but her passionate consciousness of self.
Seated under a tree in the garden of dead emperors there came to us a vision of all the rich and splendid things of Earth, offering themselves as a shrine for the great of soul. The storied windows of cathedrals and the jewelled thrones of kings, the banners of great captains and the vestments of the priests, the pageants of cities and the retreats of the proud — all came and all were rejected.
In the garments of the beggar, despised by the alien, worshipped by the people, we have seen him; and only the bread of toil, the shelter of cottage roofs, and the common road across the cornfields seem real enough for the background to this life.. . . Amongst his own the ignorant loved him as much as scholars and statesmen. The boatmen watched the river, in his absence, for his return, and servants disputed with guests to do him service. And through it all the veil of playfulness was never dropped. “They played with the Lord” and instinctively they knew it.
To those who have known such hours, life is richer and sweeter, and in the long nights even the wind in the palm trees seems to cry: “Mahadeva! Mahadeva! Mahadeva!”