Having finished his lecture tour Swami Vivek-ananda returned to Calcutta about the middle of January 1898. The Math was transferred in February from Alambazar to Nilambar Mukherjee's garden-house on the western bank of the Ganga in the village of Belur. For some time the Swami devoted himself to certain important aspects of his Mission—notably the training of his own disciples, both Eastern and Western, so as to enable them to carry into practice his plans for the regeneration of his motherland. His Western disciples had come to India at his call: Miss Margaret Noble at the end of January, to found in conjunction with Miss Henrietta F. Muller model institutions for the education of Indian women; Mrs. Ole Bull and Miss Josephine MacLeod in February. In March, Margaret Noble took the vow of Brahmacharya and the name of Nivedita, the Consecrated One. Vivekananda introduced her in warm terms to the Calcutta public as a gift of England to India.
The training of these Western disciples was of momentous concern to the Swami as a spiritual teacher. Among the Western disciples he particularly chose Nivedita in whom he had great hope and trust; and as such, his illuminating discourses were mainly directed to her. The Swami was anxious that his Western disciples should make an impartial study of Indian problems. They were not only to see the glories, but also to have special and clear understanding of the problems of the land and to bring the ideals and methods of Western scientific culture to bear upon the task of finding a solution.
The Swami then set out on a journey through India with a select group of his disciples. After a stay at Almora, were the Seviers were already established, and then after a journey to Kashmir up the river Jhelum through the Vale of Srinagar, the Swami undertook, at the end of July 1898, the great pilgrimage to the cave of Amarnath in the glacial gorge of the Western Himalayas. Only Sister Nivedita was permitted to accompany him to that holy place. On August 2, the day of the annual festival, they arrived at the sacred cave where there was the famous ice-Shiva. Behind the other pilgrims, Swami Vivekananda, trembling with emotion, entered the sanctuary in an almost semiconscious condition. A great mystical experience came to him. So saturated became his personality with the Presence of the Lord that for days afterwards he could speak of nothing but Shiva— the Eternal One, the Great Monk, rapt in meditation, aloof from all worldliness.
Following the pilgrimage to Amarnath the Swami's devotion concentrated itself on the Mother, and he was soon blessed with a wonderful vision of Kali the Divine Mother. While his vision was most intense he wrote 'Kali the Mother'—a poem, where he is seen at his best. After this experience he retired alone abruptly on September 30 to the Coloured Springs of Kshir Bhavani where he practised severe austerities. He was found completely transfigured when he returned to his disciples after a few days. All thought of leader, worker, or teacher was gone. He was now only the Monk—in all nakedness of pure Sannyasa. So, he feelingly said to them, 'It is all ?Mother? now! All my patriotism is gone. Everything is gone. Now it is only ?Mother, Mother?!' The party then came back to Lahore. The Swami's health was so much undermined that he had to be brought back to Bengal by Swami Sadananda, who had hurried down from Almora after learning of the Swami's poor health.
They arrived at Belur, where the new monastery was under construction, in the month of
October. The Swami, in spite of his failing health, resumed his old life with the monks and performed the consecrating ceremony of the monastery on December 9. From January 2, 1899, this place, now known as Belur Math, became the permanent headquarters of the monks of the Ramakrishna Order. Gathering together his disciples, the Swami began from now to impress on them the duties and responsibilities of their monastic life. Hours were spent in religious conversation; scriptures were read and commented upon; and strict regulations and monastic discipline were instituted along with spiritual and intellectual work for certain hours of the day. Addressing the disciples, the Swami would point out, 'The history of the world is the history of a few men who had faith in themselves. That faith calls out the divinity within. You fail only when you do not strive sufficiently to manifest infinite power. As soon as a man loses faith in himself, death comes. Believe first in yourself, and then in God. A handful of strong men will move the world. It is the salvation of others that you must seek; and even if you have to go to hell in working for others, that is worth more than to gain heaven by seeking your own salvation.'
In spite of illness, the Swami continued with the organization of the Ramakrishna Mission with Swami Saradananda who had been called back from
America for this work. He soon built up a strong band of 'the sappers and miners in the army of religion' for the reconstruction of Indian life, as also for the diffusion of Vedantic ideas throughout the length and breadth of the world. Very soon, his dream of starting a monastery in a cool, secluded region of the Himalayas, where the East and the West could meet on an equal footing of love and unity, exchange the highest ideals of each, and practise the Advaita philosophy, was also realized. Mr. and Mrs. Sevier with the help of Swami Swarupananda, founded the Advaita Ashrama in March 1899, under the guidance of Swami Vivekananda at Mayavati from where one can command a magnificent view of the charming ranges of perpetual snow. Other service institutions also sprang into existence under his directions in different parts of India, and the Swami had the satisfaction of seeing his lofty ideal rooted deep in the soil of his birth.