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Book  stop.gif (845 bytes)  Weekly Message Archive


In this new feature of our website, we present every week a new selection of the teachings of Vedanta, taken from a variety of sources – lectures and writings of Swami Adiswarananda, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature, and other spiritual texts.






SWAMI VIVEKANANDA, an unknown monk of India, suddenly leapt into fame at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893, at which he represented Hinduism. His vast knowledge of Eastern and Western culture as well as his deep spiritual insight, fervid eloquence, brilliant conversation, broad human sympathy, colorful personality, and handsome figure made an irresistible appeal to the many types of Americans who came in contact with him. Reports from newspapers of the time and reminiscences of those who met the Swami reveal to us the many facets of his magnetic personality.

Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda

From the reminiscences of Mary C. Funke

So here we are – in the very house [in Thousand Island Park, New York] with Vivekananda, listening to him from 8 o’clock in the morning until late at night. Even in my wildest dreams I could not imagine anything so wonderful, so perfect.... Oh, the sublime teaching of Vivekananda! No nonsense, no talk of “astrals,” “imps,” etc., but God, Jesus, Buddha. I feel that I shall never be quite the same again for I have caught a glimpse of the Real.

Just think what it means to listen to a Vivekananda at every meal, lessons each morning and the nights on the porch, the eternal stars shining like “patinas of bright gold”! In the afternoon, we take long walks and the Swami literally, and so simply, finds “books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” And this same Swami is so merry and fun-loving. We just go mad at times....

Swami tells us to forget that there is any Detroit1 for the present – that is, to allow no personal thoughts to occupy our minds while taking this instruction. We are taught to see God in everything from the blade of grass to man – “even in the diabolical man.”...

We are trying to take notes of all that he says but I find myself lost in listening and forget the notes. His voice is wondrously beautiful. One might well lose oneself in its divine music.... Sometimes I ask him rather daring questions, for I am so anxious to know just how he would react under certain conditions. He takes it so kindly when I in my impulsive way sometimes “rush in where angels fear to tread.” Once he said to some one, “Mrs. Funke rests me, she is so naïve.” Wasn’t that dear of him?

One evening, when it was raining and we were all sitting in the living room, the Swami was talking about pure womanhood and told us the story of Sita. How he can tell a story! You see it, and all the characters become real. I found myself wondering just how some of the beautiful society queens of the West would appear to him – especially those versed in the art of allurement – and before I took time to think, out popped the question, and immediately I was covered with confusion. The Swami, however, looked at me calmly with his big, serious eyes and gravely replied, “If the most beautiful woman in the world were to look at me in an immodest or unwomanly way, she would immediately turn into a hideous green frog, and one does not, of course, admire frogs!”...

And he was so sweet, so gentle and benign all that evening, just like an indulgent father who had given his children beautiful gifts, although many of us were much older than he.

The Swami has accepted C. as one fitted for his work in India. She is so happy. I was very disappointed, because he would not encourage me to go to India. I had a vague idea that to live in a cave and wear a yellow robe would be the proper thing to do if one wished to develop spiritually. How foolish of me and how wise Swamiji was! He said, “You are a householder. Go back to Detroit, find God in your husband and family. That is your path at present.” ...

This morning we went to the village and Swami had tin-types taken of himself at our request. He was so full of fun, so merry. I am trying to write you in class as there is literally no other time. I am sitting near the Swami, and he is saying these very words. “The guru is like a crystal. He reflects perfectly the consciousness of all who come to him. He thus understands how and in what way to help.” He means by this that a guru must be able to see what each person needs and he must meet them on their own plane of consciousness.

Now he has closed class for the morning, and he has turned to me, “Mrs. Funke, tell me a funny story. We are going to part soon, and we must talk funny things, isn’t it?” ...

We take long walks every afternoon, and our favorite walk is back of the cottage down a hill and then a rustic path to the river. One day there was olfactory evidence of a polecat in the vicinity, and ever since Swami will say, “shall we walk down Skunk Avenue?”

Sometimes we stop several times and sit around on the grass and listen to Swami’s wonderful talks. A bird, a flower, a butterfly, will start him off, and he will tell us stories from the Vedas or recite Indian poetry. ...

The last day has been a very wonderful and precious one. This morning there was no class. He asked C. and me to take a walk, as he wished to be alone with us. (The others had been with him all summer, and he felt we should have a last talk.) We went up a hill about half a mile away. All was woods and solitude. Finally he selected a low-branched tree, and we sat under the low-spreading branches. Instead of the expected talk, he suddenly said, “Now we will meditate. We shall be like Buddha under the Bo-tree.” He seemed to turn to bronze, so still was he. Then a thunderstorm came up, and it poured. He never noticed it. I raised my umbrella and protected him as much as possible. Completely absorbed in his meditation, he was oblivious of everything. Soon we heard shouts in the distance. The others had come out after us with raincoats and umbrellas. Swamiji looked around regretfully, for we had to go, and said, “Once more am I in Calcutta in the rains.”

He was so tender and sweet all this last day. As the steamer rounded the bend in the river, he boyishly and joyously waved his hat to us in farewell, and he had departed indeed!...

Ah, those blessed halcyon days at Thousand Island Park! The nights all glowing with the soft mystery of moonlight or golden starlight. And yet the Swami’s arrival amongst us held no mystery, apparently. He came in simple guise.

We found later that anything which smacked of the mystery-monger was abhorrent to him. He came to make manifest the Glory and Radiance of the Self. Man’s limitations are of his own making. “Thine only is the hand that holds the rope that drags thee on.” This was the motif running through the Swami’s teachings.

With infinite pains he tried to show us the path he himself had trod. After thirty-one years Swamiji stands out in my consciousness a colossal figure – a cleaver of bondage, knowing when and where not to spare. With his two-edged flaming sword came this Man “out of the East” – this Man of Fire and Flame, and some there were who received him, and to those who received him he gave Power.

1 Mary C. Funke was from Detroit.

Book  stop.gif (845 bytes) Weekly Message Archive