Swami Vivekananda | 12. Second visit to the West


12. Second visit to the West

The Swami announced his intention of going to the West in order to see the work he had founded as well as to give fresh impetus to them. He was urged also by his friends and physicians to do so at once as his health was very poor.

This time he took with him Sister Nivedita and a brother monk, Swami Turiyananda, and boarded the steamer on June 20, 1899.

In regard to taking Swami Turiyananda to America, the Swami said:

“They have seen the Kshatriya power—now I want to show them the Brahmin!”

He meant that in himself the West had seen the combative spirit and energy in the defence of the Eternal Religion, Sanātana Dharma;

and now the time had come when the people should have before them the example of a man of meditation in his Gurubhai, born and bred in the best traditions and rigorous discipline of Brāhminhood.

After having broken his journey in London, he went to the United States and stayed for almost a year. There he found Abhedananda actively engaged in the Vedāntic work.

Turiyananda settled down at Mont Clair near New York, and he himself went to California, where he founded the Vedanta Society at San Francisco.

Besides, he received the gift of a property of one hundred and sixty acres of forest land in the district of Santa Clara, where an Āśrama was established by Swami Turiyananda to train a select band of students in the monastic life.

Thus the work prospered and the ideas spread; but though the Swami was full of merriment even while busy consolidating his work in America, there was always in him the undertone of serious states of mind:

Throughout his Western experience this time one notices in him a deep yearning for the Absolute. In one of his letters he definitely says:

“Pray for me that my works may stop for ever, and my whole soul be absorbed in the Mother! The battles are lost and won. I have bundled my things, and am waiting for the Great Deliverer!

I am only the boy who used to listen with rapt wonderment to the wonderful words of Ramakrishna under the banyan of Dakshineswar. That is my true nature; works and activities, doing good and so forth are all superimpositions.

Now, I again hear his voice; the same old voice thrilling my soul. Bonds are breaking, love dying, work becoming tasteless; the glamour is off life. Now only the voice of the Master calling: Let the dead bury the dead, follow thou Me!

I come, my Beloved Lord, I come, Nirvana is before me. I feel it at times, the same infinite ocean of peace, without a ripple, a breath.”

Towards the end of July 1900, the Swami started for Paris, where he had been invited to the Congress of the History of Religions. He stayed in Paris for about three months and left for Egypt via Vienna, Constantinople, and Athens.

The meditative habit, which had revealed itself ever since his second visit to the West in intense forms, now reached a veritable climax:

In Paris, oftentimes his mind had been far aloof from his environment; and here in Egypt it seemed as if he were turning the last pages in the Book of Experience. He seemed world-weary.

Suddenly he felt a strong desire to return to India. There in the far-off Himalayan Āśrama, Mr Sevier, his great friend and disciple, had given up his body—a martyr to his cause. The Swami had, as it were, a presentiment of this.

He became restless to return to India. So without waiting a single day he took the first steamer and came back alone to his motherland at the beginning of December 1900.

The joy of his brother-monks knew no bounds when they unexpectedly found their leader present in their midst.

About his impression of this visit to the West the Swami said that during his first journey he had been caught by the power, the organization, and the apparent democracy of America and Europe.

But now he had discovered the spirit of lucre, of greed, of Mammon, with its enormous combinations and ferocious struggle for supremacy.

Material brilliance no longer deceived him. He saw the hidden tragedy, the weariness under the forced expenditure of energy—the deep sorrow under the frivolous mask:

“Social life in the West,” he said to Nivedita, “is like a peal of laughter: but underneath it is a wail. It ends in a sob.

The fun and frivolity are all on the surface; really it is full of tragic intensity. Here (in India) it is sad and gloomy on the surface, but underneath are carelessness and merriment.”