(Translated from Bengali )
[Place: Belur Math. Year: 1901.]
Swamiji is in indifferent health. At the earnest request of Swami Niranjanananda he has been taking Ayurvedic medicines for six or seven days. According to this treatment, the drinking of water is strictly forbidden. He has to appease his thirst with milk.
The disciple has come to the Math early in the day. Swamiji on seeing him spoke with affection, “Oh, you have come? Well done, I was thinking of you.”
Disciple: I hear that you are living on milk for the last six or seven days.
Swamiji: Yes, at the earnest entreaty of Niranjan, I had to take to this medicine! I cannot disregard their request.
Disciple: You were in the habit of taking water very frequently. How could you give it up altogether?
Swamiji: When I heard that according to this treatment water had to be given up, I made a firm resolve immediately not to take water. Now the idea of drinking water does not even occur to the mind.
Disciple: The treatment is doing you good I hope?
Swamiji: That I don’t know. I am simply obeying the orders of my brother-disciples.
Disciple: I think that indigenous drugs such as the Vaidyas use, are very well-suited to our constitution.
Swamiji: My idea is that it is better even to die under the treatment of a scientific doctor than expect recovery from the treatment of laymen who know nothing of modern science, but blindly go by the ancient books, without gaining a mastery of the subject — even though they may have cured a few cases.
Swamiji cooked certain dishes, one of which was prepared with vermicelli. When the disciple, who partook of it, asked Swamiji what it was, he replied, “It is a few English earthworms which I have brought dried from London.” This created laughter among those present at the expense of the disciple. Despite his spare food and scanty sleep, Swamiji is very active. A few days ago, a new set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica had been bought for the Math. Seeing the new shining volumes, the disciple said to Swamiji, “It is almost impossible to read all these books in a single lifetime.” He was unaware that Swamiji had already finished ten volumes and had begun the eleventh.
Swamiji: What do you say? Ask me anything you like from these ten volumes, and I will answer you all.
The disciple asked in wonder, “Have you read all these books?”
Swamiji: Why should I ask you to question me otherwise?
Being examined, Swamiji not only reproduced the sense, but at places the very language of the difficult topics selected from each volume. The disciple, astonished, put aside the books, saying, “This is not within human power!”
Swamiji: Do you see, simply by the observance of strict Brahmacharya (continence) all learning can be mastered in a very short time — one has an unfailing memory of what one hears or knows but once. It is owing to this want of continence that everything is on the brink of ruin in our country.
Disciple: Whatever you may say, sir, the manifestation of such superhuman power cannot be the result of mere Brahmacharya, something else there must be.
Swamiji did not say anything in reply.
Then Swamiji began to explain lucidly to the disciple the arguments and conclusions about the difficult points in all philosophies. In course of the conversation Swami Brahmananda entered the room and said to the disciple, “You are a nice man! Swamiji is unwell, and instead of trying to keep his mind cheerful by light talk, you are making him talk incessantly, raising the most abstruse subjects!” The disciple was abashed. But Swamiji said to Swami Brahmananda, “Keep your regulation of Ayurvedic treatment aside. These are my children; and if my body goes in teaching them, I don’t care.” After this, some light talk followed. Then arose the topic of the place of Bhâratchandra in Bengali literature. From the beginning Swamiji began to ridicule Bharatchandra in various ways and satirised the life, manners, marriage-customs, and other usages of society at the time of Bharatchandra, who was an advocate of child-marriage. He expressed the opinion that the poems of Bharatchandra, being full of bad taste and obscenities, had not found acceptance in any cultured society except in Bengal, and he said, “Care should be taken that such books do not come into the hands of boys.” Then raising the topic of Michael Madhusudan Dutt, he added, “That was a wonderful genius born in your province. There is not another epic in Bengali literature like the Meghnâdbadh, no mistake in that; and it is difficult to come across a poem like that in the whole of modern European literature.”
Disciple: But, sir, I think Michael was very fond of a bombastic style.
Swamiji: Well, if anybody in your country does anything new, you at once hoot him. First examine well what he is saying, but instead of that, the people of the country will chase after anything which is not quite after the old modes. For example, in order to bring to ridicule this Meghnabadh Kâvya, which is the gem of Bengali literature, the parody of Chhuchhundaribadh Kâvya (The Death of a Mole) was written. They may caricature as much as they like, it does not matter. But the Meghnadbadh Kavya still stands unshaken in its reputation like the Himalayas while the opinions and writings of carping critics who are busy picking holes in it have been washed away into oblivion. What will the vulgar public understand of this epic Michael has written in such a vigorous diction and an original metre? And at the present time Girish Babu is writing wonderful books in a new metre which your overwise Pundits are criticising and finding fault with. But does G.C. care for that? People will appreciate the book afterwards.
Thus speaking on the subject of Michael he said, “Go and get the Meghnadbadh Kavya from the library downstairs.” On the disciple’s bringing it he said, “Now read, let me see how you can read it.”
The disciple read a portion, but the reading not being to the liking of Swamiji, he took the book and showed him how to read and asked him to read again. Then he asked him, “Now, can you say which portion of the Kavya is best?” The disciple failing to answer, Swamiji said, “That portion of the book which describes how Indrajit has been killed in battle and Mandodari, beside herself with grief, is dissuading Râvana from the battle — but Ravana casting off forcibly from his mind the grief for his son is firmly resolved on battle like a great hero, and forgetting in a fury of rage and vengeance all about his wife and children, is ready to rush out for battle — that is the most finely conceived portion of the book. Come what may, I shall not forget my duty, whether the world remains or dissolves-these are the words of a great hero. Inspired by such feelings, Michael has written that portion.”
Saying this, Swamiji opened the particular passage and began to read it in the most impressive manner.