THE PASSING

The last two months which the Swami passed on earth were full of events foreshadowing the approaching end, though at times these events passed by unsuspected by those around him. As days passed the Swami felt more and more the necessity of withdrawing himself from the task of directing the affairs of the Math. 'How often,' he said, 'does a man ruin his disciples by remaining always with them? When men are once trained, it is essential that their leader leaves them, for without his absence they cannot develop themselves!' Work and all other bonds were dropping off; more than ever did he withdraw himself from all outer concerns. Meditation became his one great occupation. His Gurubhais and disciples were alarmed at seeing him retire into such an atmosphere of austerity and meditation. The prophecy of Sri Ramakrishna that Naren would merge in Nirvikalpa Samadhi at the end of his works constantly haunted their memory.

It seemed he was looking forward to a certain day on which to throw off the bondage of the body. It was Friday, the fourth of July 1902. On that day he went to the chapel in the morning, and after closing the windows and bolting the doors, spent three hours in meditation. Then he broke forth in a touching song of the Divine Mother. The monks below were charmed to hear the sweet strains of it coming from the shrine-room.

Descending the stairs of the shrine, he paced up and down in the courtyard of the monastery, his mind withdrawn. He was heard muttering to himself: 'If there were another Vivekananda, he would have understood what Vivekananda has done! And yet, how many Vivekanandas shall be born in time!' The Gurubhai who, unnoticed, heard these words was startled, for never did the Swami speak in this manner.

At noon he took his food along with all in the refectory—contrary to his practice during these days. After the meal he took a Sanskrit class with his disciples for about three hours. Then in the afternoon he took a walk with one of his Gurubhais and expressed his particular desire to establish a Vedic College in the Math. In the evening, as the service bell in the shrine rang, he went to his room and remained absorbed in meditation for nearly an hour. Then he laid himself down on his bed. He had his rosary still in his hand. About an hour later, he changed sides and took a deep breath. Another long deep breath like the preceding one, and then all was calm and still. The tired child slept in the lap of the Mother, whence there was no awakening to this world of Maya.

The Swami was thirty-nine years and a few months, thus fulfilling a prophecy which was frequently on his lips, 'I shall never live to see forty.' But with the passing of days, as one observes how the number of his disciples, devotees, and admirers in the two hemispheres is rapidly increasing, how he is silently influencing thousands of lives all over the world, how his fiery message is supplying direct and indirect inspiration to hundreds of movements in his own motherland and throughout the world for the uplift of which he thought so much and worked so hard—one remembers the words he spoke long before his death: 'It may be that I shall find it good to get outside my body—to cast it off like a worn-out garment. But I shall not cease to work! I shall inspire men everywhere, until the world shall know that it is one with God!'