THERE are many who seem to think that Swami Vivekananda and his band of co-workers were confining themselves to mere philosophical discourses and there could be no greater mistake than that. The Ramkrishna Mission has always taken a lead in works of practical benevolence.
Swami Vivekananda was the moving spirit and inspirer of the ideal of service to fellowmen—an ideal which was carried out into practice by the energy, patience and disinterested devotion of a Brotherhood whose acts of charity “ recall the benign deeds of St. Francis of Assisi.” The cry of distressed humanity pierced the heart of the Swami. It is said that at a time when he was sorely perplexed by the ravages of famine a Pandit of the Upper Provinces came to argue with him on the Vedanta philosophy. The Swami is reported to have addressed the learned scholar in these words, which may fitly be the motto of the Mission’s social work. “ Panditji,” said the Swami, “ first of all you try to ameliorate the terrible distress that is prevailing everywhere, the heart-rending cry of your hungry
countrymen for a morsel of food, and after that come to have a debate on Vedanta. To stake one’s whole life and soul to save the thousands who are dying of starvation—this is the essence of the religion of the Vedanta.”
THE ADVAITA ASHRAMA.*
By Swami Virajananda.
The Advaita Ashrama was started on the 19th of March 1699 on the Himalayan heights, the land of its first expiration, with the fullest approval and under the guidance of the Swami Vivekananda. The Ashrama was founded by Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Sevier with the;co-operation of Swami Swarupananda, its first President, and has ever since been conducted by the Brotherhood founded by the Swami Vivekananda.
Here it is hoped to keep Advaita free from all superstitions and weakening contaminations. Here is taught and practised nothing but the Doctrine of Unity, pure and simple, as taught by the Swami Vivekananda; and though in entire sympathy with all other systems, this Ashrama is dedicated to Advaita and Advaita alone.
In furtherance of the above objects of the Ashrama, its activities are directed to three general heads: Propaganda, Educational and Charitable Works.
1.. Propaganda Work.
(a) By the training of members as workers and teachers:— Those who, giving up all private concerns, desire to devote themselves exclusively to self-improvement and the furtherance of the objects of the Ashrama are admitted as inmates and trained to be workers and teachers. The inmates are allotted such works at the Ashrama, manual and intellectual, as they are fitted to do, or capable of doing.
This helping in the general work of the Ashrama, practised in the spirit of Karma Yoga, takes up five or six hours daily. For the rest of the day the members are free to practise selfimprovement by private and class study, meditation and Japam. Classes are held on Western and Eastern philosophy, the former in English, and the latter in English, Sanskrit or Bengali, as is convenient. Manual labour includes press work, agriculture
* From “ A Brief History and Report of Work ” from 1899 to 1913.
and gardening, and the supervision of other outdoor works. No external worship of images, pictures, etc., or any religious ceremony or ritual except Viraja Homa, is allowed. Since the time of the inception of the Ashrama up to the end of 1910, 32 workers were admitted in all; out of which 12 were unsuccessful in continuing the life of renunciation or were unsuitable and thus left. Out of the remainder, 6 are at present workers at the Ashrama, 3 died in harness and 11 are now useful members at other centres of the Ramakrishna Mission in India and abroad. For the last three years it has been the rule not to admit any Brahmacharin except through the Belur Math, and such an one is expected to work here for three years at the least.
(b) By lectures and conversational or epistolary intercourse :—Swami Swarupananda, the first President of the Ashrama, went every year or so to many places in the United Provinces and Rajputana where he invariably succeeded in creating a deep interest in Advaita Vedanta by his life and teachings, through conversations and lectures among the higher and middle classes. In this capacity he visited Almora, Naini Tal, Bilibhit, Delhi, Allahabad, and Kishangarh. He died at Naini Tal of pneumonia at the age of 38, on 27th June, 1906, when he was there on such a mission. He delivered two public lectures in Allahabad in February 1903, as also did the Swami Vimalananda, which made such an impression upon the local gentry that they came forward with an earnest request to them to open a centre there assuring them of their full support. Swami Vimalananda also did good wrork in Naini Tal for two months in 1902, and at Bangalore during 1905 and 1906. Both these Swamis were greatly loved and esteemed by all among whom they worked. The present writer also visited most of the towns in the United Provinces, Punjab, Sind, Kathiawar and also some in the Bombay Presidency and Rajputana, during his tour from November 1901 to August 1902 in the interest of the Prabuddha Bharata Magazine, and had thus much opportunity of coming in to touch with educated men in every sphere of life, and making them feel interested in the life, work and mission of the Swami Vivekananda.
(c) By literature:—Swami Vivekananda intended to make the Advaita Ashrama the centre, among other things, of the Ramakrishna Mission, for diffusing Vedanta teachings by means of a monthly journal and other publications in English, and it is gratifying to note that the Ashrama has been discharging this function with admirable and ever-growing success, notwithstanding all the difficulties in conducting a Press in the midst of the Himalayan jungles, 63 miles from the nearest railway station, and at a height of 6800 feet above the sea-level. When the Swamiji was living at Almora in June 1898, with some of his Western and Indian disciples and Gurubhais, the news reached him of the sudden demise of the gifted Editor of the monthly journal, Prabuddha Bharata, which had been started two years before at Madras under his auspices. He at once made up his mind to revive the discontinued paper as the organ of the Ramakrishna Mission, with Swami Swarupa-nanda as its editor (he having had a wide experience in this line as the Editor of Dawn, Calcutta, for some time), and Mr. J. H. Sevier as its Manager. A hand-press with other printing requisites was brought up from Calcutta to Almora and the paper made its appearance in the following August in a new garb. The idea and the necessity of starting a monastery in a cool, secluded hilly region where the East and the West could meet and practise the Advaita philosophy was discussed and decided upon, and it was also thought desirable to have a permanent home for the paper. Thus the Mayavati tea estate of extensive acreage and jungles and with two commodious houses situated 50 miles from Almora, was fixed upon and bought, the Press was removed thither and Mr. and Mrs. Sevier with Swami Swarupananda took up their residence here on the 19th of March 1899. Prabuddha Bharata was edited and conducted with remarkable ability by the Swami Swarupananda, aided by his Brother-Sannyasins, till his death in June 1906, when it was taken over by the present writer, who succeeded him as President of the Ashrama. The steady increase of subscribers ever since shows that the paper has maintained its high standard of excellence. During Swami Swarupananda’s term of office, eight books and pamphlets were issued under the title of the “Himalayan Series,’* and the resolution was formed to popularise the Swamiji’s ideas by bringing out in a collected form, all his lectures, writings, letters and discourses, etc., so far as they were available, after careful revision and editing. In 1905 Swami Swarupananda started upon this gigantic task with all his usual vigour and earnestness and continued his work until his last illness when a portion of the first part of “ The Complete Works of the Swami Vivekananda, Mayavati Memorial Edition,” had already gone through the Press and a further considerable portion was also ready for printing.
The Western and Eastern disciples of Swamiji at the Advaita Ashrama undertook the work and devoted the whole of their time and energy for four years to bring it to completion. They have been successful in bringing out five volumes of the works, of about 250 pages each, and of the size of 9^ by 7 inches. This great work is expected to be completed in another volume containing the rest of the Swamiji’s speeches, writings, letters and conversations, with a glossary and index. Besides these five parts, the Advaita Ashrama has since 1907 published the following wo^ks:—Works by the Swami Vivekananda.—(1) Jnana Yoga. (2) Bhakti Yoga, (3) Two lectures on Karma Yoga. (4) Modern India. (5) Epistles of the Swami Vivekananda 1st Series, 2nd Edition. (6) Ditto 2nd Series. (7) Lectures from Colombo to Almora. Other Works(8). The Swami Abhedananda s Lectures and Addresses in India. (9) Srimad Bhagavad-Gita by Swami Swarupananda.
2. Educational Work.
In its early days the Ashrama had the intention of starting a free boarding school for boys of the surrounding villages and for this purpose provided several of them with free board, lodging and education for about two years. As soonjas the boys learned to read and write in Hindi and English, they were, however, taken away by their guardians to be put to some employment, and so the school had to be broken up. But it is -gratifying to learn that all of them are now earning respectable wages in various occupations. Since then, the Ashrama' has from time to time opened daily classes, Sunday classes and evening classes to teach the boys of the villagers and the men employed in the Ashrama, Hindi, English and Arithmetic.
3. Charitable Work.
The Mayavati Charitable Dispensary:—Moved by the extreme helplessness and suffering of the poor and ignorant villagers in times of illness, the Swamis distributed medicines to those who came from long distances, and themselves went out to succour such as were too ill to come for help. As^heir numbers increased, the Ashrama felt the need of opening a regular dispensary, under a competent physician; the services of a retired Indian doctor were secured for two years at the monthly salary of Rs. 30, free board and lodging, and the Mayavati Charitable Dispensary was started in Novembir 1903 at the Ashrama. Before appealing to the public for funds, the Ashrama bore the entire cost of its maintenance for nearly two years amounting to Rs. 1,030-11-0.
II. THE PRACTICAL WORK OF THE MISSION.
[This leads us to a consideration of the three main features of the Mission’s Work viz.,—famine relief, medical relief and propaganda work. The following account of the practical work of the Mission is taken from the Memorial Edition of the life of Swami Vivekananda by his Eastern and Western disciples.]
In the latter part of 1899, India was under the throes of a famine which was admitted as the severest that the country had seen in the last century, if not for some centuries past. With the modest and limited means at the disposal of the Brotherhood, the work accomplished by the Mission was, perhaps, rfot very much when we consider the extent and depth of the prevailing distress, but the record was admitted on all hands as certainly the most creditable. Besides, the-example of such altruistic undertakings was bound to have its wholesome influence on the public generally. The Mission chose for its scene of labours the State of Kishangarh in Raj* putana, which was hard hit in common with other places. Swami Kalyanananda was sent there on November, to open a famine-relief centre and an orphanage, and thanks to the generous support he received from the Durbar, he was instrumental in snatching from an untimely death as many as 55 boys and 30 girls, who were housed in two separate buildings kindly lent by the Durbar. Later the number rose to 141. On the average 400 persons received help daily. Ten of the orphan boys were found employment at the Carpet Factory, and 6 boys and 7 girls at the Cotton Mills. Major J. R. Dunlop Smith, the Famine Commissioner, who visited the orphanage at the end of February 1900, wrote in his report; “.........The children are in excellent condition and appear to receive every attention.
They were all very happy......” Mr. G. R. Erwin, the Resident at Jeypore, being pleased with the work contributed Rs. 1,000 to the orphanage. Swamis Nirmalananda, Swarupananda and Atmananda also joined later and greatly helped the work in various ways. “ Their Orphanage,” wrote The Advocate of Lucknow, “ is a wonder of economy along with efficiency.”
Again, seeing the urgency of opening a famine-relief centre in the Central Provinces, the Mission sent the Swami Sureshwrananda to Khandwa, who started work there in May 1900. The funds at his command being limited, the Swami determined to work along the line of supplementing the activities of the local authorities, as had been done at Kishan-garh, and at the kind suggestion of the Deputy Commissioner of the Province, went in search of respectable families reduced to destitution, who would not come out to beg even though they might be at the point of death, and supplied them with food. And hundreds of people who were starving, being physically incapable of doing any work at the Government centres, were also inspected by the Swami and given sufficient quantities of rice, thus saving their lives. In nearly four months of work, the total number of persons relieved, was 13,837, of whom 3,343 belonged to high-caste poor families.
On 24th September 1899 some parts of the Bhagalpur District in Behar were inundated by a devastating flood. Whole villages were swept away, entire families perished, and hundreds of people became quite destitute., §wami Akhanda-' nanda went from his Murshidabad orphanage to the stricken area, opened a relief centre at Ghoga and worked from 15th October to 20th December. Swami Sadananda was deputed from the Belur Math to help him. They succoured 45 villages* and nursed many helpless Cholera patients day and night. In one place the Swami Akhandananda taught the inhabitants how to disinfect, and distributed camphor, sulphur and incense for the purpose. By this means he made a village of Chandals free of cholera. He also distributed pieces of cloth to 540 people, who had almost nothing on them. Of these 408 were destitute widows. Mr. J. G. Cumming, the Magistrate and Collector of the district, helped him with nearly half the, money and took great interest in the work. When the work was closed he thanked the Swamis and the Kamakrishna Mission for the good work done by them.
When the terrible landslip occurred at Darjeeling in 1899, Swami Shivananda rendered necessary help to many persons made homeless and miserable by the catastrophe.
A medical relief work was also carried on by the Rama-krishna Mission in a rented house in Calcutta from 22nd June to 23rd October 1899. /
As in the previous year, when plague and cholera broke out in Calcutta in the summer of 1900, but in a more virulent form* the workers of the Ramakrishna Mission in order to prevent the spread of the frightful epidemics did much sanitary work under the direction of the Swami Sadananda, which exacted the admiration and gratitude of the public. The work was directed to the insanitary bustees of wards 1, 2 and 3, and extended through a period of five weeks. It was confined mostly to the poorest classes who were unable to pay for cleansing and disinfecting their huts, drains and closets which were kept in the most filthy condition. The kind and amount of work done will be realised when it is stated that within that short period no less than 1,300 bustee huts and 64 pucca houses were cleansed and disinfected including drains and closets connected therewith, open spaces and surroundings of most of them in which heaps of refuse had accumulated for months were swept, and 160 cart loads of refuse were removed. The thorough manner in which everything was done was testified to by the Sanitary Inspectors of the wards, the Divisional Superintendent, the Health Officer of Calcutta and the District Medical Officer, Plague Department, who inspected the work on several occasions and heartily thanked the Mission for the disinterested help it had rendered to improve the sanitation of the city. The Indian Mirror, in its leader of 29th April, wrote:—*•* * * The Ramakrishna Mission hdfe its plague volunteers likewise. They are to be met within Calcutta in the dirtiest streets and filthiest bustees, helping to clear plague-spots, encouraging the people, consoling them in their affliction and teaching them to live clean lives. And this is done without the expenditure of much money.* * * ” The work was stopped only when the epidemic had so far subsided as to make its continuance unnecessary.
A plague camp was also opened at Vaniyambadi in the Madras Presidency in the name of Ramakrishna by the local devotees of the Bhagavan and of Swamiji in March 1902 for treating helpless Hindu patients suffering from the dread disease.
Besides taking in hand temporary relief measures demanded by sudden emergencies caused by famine, flood, plague and other visitations of widespread misery, the Swami’s idea was to cover the land with permanent centres of relief for giving all possible aid to the diseased, the poor, and the helpless people of his land. The idea of making worship and Sadhana of such service by seeing Narayana in them was a new innovation which augurs well for the country, in that it creates the national Sraddha or devotion to the people in the hearts of the young generation. In his private talks to young men and in some of his lectures in India, as is well-known, he earnestly sought to infuse this spirit into them. Though he had not the satisfaction of seeing how the seeds of his dearly-cherished desire have grown up into vigorous institutions since his passing, he was glad at heart to have started two Homes of Service, one at Benares and the other at Kankhal, under the charge of a few of his Sannyasin disciples, besides the orphanage at Murshidabad conducted by Swami Akhandananda. In Benares, the most ancient and living centre of Hinduism, considered the holiest city in India, besides thousands of Sadhus who pass their days in study and meditation, depending upon bhiksha from the Chhatrams, there come large numbers of men and women, old and decrepit, awaiting to enter into Eternal Freedom after death. In spite of the charitable dispensaries and Annasatras, when these’ people and other poor pilgrims fall victims to disease or starvation, they are practically found lying in the streets helpless and uncared-for. The sight of such misery touched the hearts of two Brahmacharins of the Mission, who formed the Poor Men’s Relief Association and set to work from 13th June 1900, to fhitigate the distress of the sick and the helpless who were placed outside the reach of the existing conventional forms of charity. Up to 12th September, for want of accommodation, assistance was given to them in the streets and ghats, or in the houses of the invalids. Subsequently a small house was rented in order to give them the full benefit of the care and attention of the workers. Out of this small beginning, the huge proportions which the present Home of Service has gradually attained with its large outdoor dispensary, and its hospital with numerous wards and other necessary quarters constructed after the best sanitary standards, in its spacious grounds, are a monument of the untiring zeal and the constant self-sacrificing labours of the workers, supported by the handsome donations and the continued pecuniary help received from the public. Up to the end of 1912, the Home relieved no less than 43,753 indoor and outdoor patients and sufferers from other sources, and the work has gone on increasing ever since in an exceptional degree.
Early in 1901 Swami Kalyananda, a disciple of Swamiji’s, during a pilgrimage to Hardwar, was deeply affected by the helpless condition of Sadhus in time of their illness, and felt an irresistible impulse to serve the afflicted with medical help and nursing. He communicated his resolve to his brother-disciple, the Swami Swarupananda of the Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, who fully shared in it, and both set to work begging for funds to start a Sevashrama, which they succeeded in doing in June 1901. A few phials of medicines were secured and a room was rented at Kankhal, with Swami Kalyananda as doctor, nurse, accountant and all. The work steadily prospered, and early in 1902 during the Kumbha mela at Hardwar a branch centre was worked with great success at Hrishikesh, where a large number of Sadhus congregate to pass the winter months. With growing appreciation and support from the pious public, the scope of work gradually widened, permanent quarters for a hospital and outdoor dispensary were constructed with several wards and the relief, which was at the outset confined to the indoor treatment of Sadhus only, was extended to all helpless pilgrims and poor people who sought the aid of the Home. The record of work done during thirteen and a half years up to December 1914, is striking evidence* of its utility and importance, as within that period it has< relieved 66,362 indoor and outdoor patients.
The Sevashramas of Brindaban and Allahabad being established several years after Swamiji’s passing, do not come within the scope of this chapter. Mention may only be made that during the six years ending in 1912, the former treated 66,450 indoor and outdoor patients,, and the latter treated 5,856 patients in 1912. The work of relief is carried on in all the centres mentioned above in a purely non-sectarian spirit, and Hindus from the highest to the lowest caste, as well as Mahommedans,. Christians and people of other religious persuasions are served with equal care and attention. In considering the works accomplished by all these Sevashramas it must be remembered that, if they had not had to encounter a keen day-to-day struggle between the increasing demands for Seva and the inadequate supply of funds to meet them, they could have accomplished an incalculably greater amount of work with a more proper degree of efficiency.
These four permanent charitable institutions of the Mission, it will be noticed, have sprung up in the four holy places of pilgrimage, which hold undisturbed sway over the minds of millions of all classes of Hindus. “ The Hindu standpoint,” as has been remarked in the First General Report issued by the Ramakrishna Mission, “ is that the most fundamental concern of man is religion and all social and civic activities must grow out of and revolve round that centre. In India, for example, the national characteristic is to develop cities round the temples, while in Europe cities evolve round centres of commercial aDd political activity. The Hindu Shastras also specially extol in one voice, charity in places of pilgrimage. In fact,* it is a part of national economy in India to direct tha liberality of the people towards those who devote their lives more or less to the cause of spirituality. This important principle together with the universal impulse of charity in the presence of distress, underlies the noteworthy fact of the Sevashramas springing up in the holy places......” Moreover, as says
The Brahmavadin: “ The Ramakrishna Homes of Siervice represent a spontaneous effort of the higher federation of Hinduism to come to the assistance of the local, or communal, or purely civic consciousness, in an age of crisis and transition. Its birth is in religion, but its goal,'as befits the modern world, is civic. Religion inspires, but does not limit its activities. The brotherhood seeks to serve the city. In the fact that such service arises, and arises spontaneously, we find a proof of the* undying strength of the Motherland. In the aim it proposes to itself, we read the adequacy of the Sanatana Dharma to every phase of the development of civilisation.” * * * “ The Ramakrishna Mission is now the centre of vast spiritual influence, and all that is good and all that is holy, in this and many other lands in the East and the West, is certain to respond to that influence.”
As is well-known, Swamiji had well-defined schemes for the education of Hindu boys and girls on truly national lines. Though the Ramakrishna Mission was not in a position to take it up on an adequate scale, some humble beginnings were made in the direction of a practical solution of the problem before and after his passing. The notable of these were the Sister Nivedita’s Girls’ School at Calcutta, and the Ramakrishna Orphanage at Sargachi in Murshidabad District. The Swami Akhandananda instructed by the Swami Vivekananda himself as how to proceed in the proper lines in regard to the education and uplifting of the masses, has been ever .since laying down his life by slow degrees trying to solve this most important problem, though constantly handicapped for want of means and resources. His scheme in general is well worth reproducing here from the First General Report of the Ramakrishna Mission:—
“ His idea is to start model institutions on a scale calculated to illustrate to educated men the methods by which the rural classes are to be approached and the light of knowledge is to be diffused among them. These institutions will provide respectively for the following items of work : 1st, orphanage work,—taking parental care of rural children having none to look after them ; 2nd ; relief work,—combating disease, misery in any form, and sudden scourges of nature; 3rd. general -education; 4th, training in useful industries and arts; 5th, training in modern agricultural methods ; 6th., separate provision for giving medical aid, nursing, refuge and useful education to girls ; and 7 th., organising of all these classes of work in the district centre and its rural branches with a spiritual outlook on life and its activities. Thus, with a central workers’ Ashrama conducted on a religious basis, there will be six separate institutions set up side by side in this district centre where the whole work of the uplifting of the masses will be continued. From this district centre as the headquarters will be spread a network of village organisations specialising technical training and relief according as the needs of the local •area dictate. The district Ashrama and the Orphanage will also make it a point to initiate trained young men from the proper classes into a life consecrated to all this work and scatter them throughout the rural areas with or without some professional pursuit for their own livelihood as the case may ¦demand, the idea being to make rural people fully participate In all the nobler ideals of life for which the Ramakrishna Mission stands, not simply as passive recipients but also as their active promulgators......Evidently it is proper to make our help reach the rural people who live in the villages and not to make them come to us in the towns for that help. The nation, we should remember.
Passing on to a brief survey of the Maths and Ashramas established during the latter part of Swamiji’s lifetime, mention must be made of the Ramakrishna Advaita Ashrama of Benares. A small beginning in the direction of a religious institution for inculcating the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna was made there in 1900 by Swami Achalananda, then a Brahmacharin. In June 1902, Swami Shivananda was sent by Swamiji from the Belur Math to start an Ashrama on a permanent and wider basis to carry on the missionary and monastic work at Benares. The objects of the Ashrama are, (1) to train young men in Brahmacharyam and mould their character after the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and the Swami Vivekananda; (2) to train spiritual and secular educators by encouraging arts and industries, and popularising the study of Vedanta and other systems of religious thought as interpreted by the above great teachers; (3) to carry on the work inaugurated by them, of fraternising with the various creeds of the world knowing them to be so many phases of the one Eternal Universal Religion; (4) to give primary education to boys by opening a school in the Ashrama ; (5) to translate the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and of Swamiji in Hindi. By dint of perseverance and devotion of the Swami Shivananda, and, later on, of Brahmachari Chandra, the Ashrama has gradually risen to eminence and become a permanent and useful institution in the holy city.
From the year 1900, the Swami Vijnanananda commenced work at Allahabad with the Brahmavadin Club, which had been started by some earnest followers of Swamiji for the study and discussion of religious subjects. Later on, the Swami considered it proper to invest his work with a public character and founded a Math in the city, dedicated to purely monastic purposes, with a Sevashrama connected with it.
III.—THE MISSION’S WORK IN FOREIGN LANDS.
Vol. IV of the Himalayan Edition of the Swami Vivekananda’s life contains a narrative of the work of the Ramakrishna Mission in England and America. The following account, though by no means up-to-date, gives an idea of the elaborate propaganda work, carried on by the Mission in foreign countries. •
Turning to the propaganda work carried on in foreign lands, we find the Sister Nivedita working in England and Scotland for nearly a year from the latter part of 1900, as she had done in America prior to this, educating the public opinion on the life and ideals of Indian womanhood, dispelling many of the false notions that were current, and presenting an altogether new light, with regard to them. Wherever she lectured she set forth with her usual vehemence her scheme of educating the Indian women on true national lines. All such work done by Western women, she insisted, must be based upon a patient and reverent study and a thorough knowledge of their lives, their philosophy and their customs. They should not ride rough-shod over their prejudices, but thoroughly Hinduise themselves, and educate and develop their particular inborn characteristics. She pointed out that Hinduism with ail its faults was the most magnificent system of civilisation and supplied the finest educational instrument that the world had ever seen. The great ideal of Indian womanhood, she pointed out, was not romance but renunciation, and that this ideal should be strengthened and not impaired in giving the Hindu women education on modern practicality.
In the period under review, besides the work carried on by the Swami Vivekananda in the West, and especially in California as already described, striking progress was achieved through the untiring exertions of the Swami Abhedananda in the United States of America. Through the generous subscriptions and co-operation of students and friends, the headquarters of the Vedanta Society of New York was established on a suitable site with its class-rooms, office and library, on 15th October 1899, and the Swami Abhedananda resumed his public lectures from the next week in the Tuxedo Hall and in Madison Avenue, and continued them throughout the winter and spring on Sunday afternoons. He also lectured and.held classes in the Vedanta Society during the week days. On June 1st, he addressed the New England Cremation Society of Boston at their anniversary meeting, and on the next day spoke before an audience of 1,000 persons at the anniversary of the Free Religious Association of America on “ The Conception of Immortality.” Both the lectures were most favourably received*. After visiting Waltham, Concord and Walden Pond, he went to Newport and gave an address on 20th June in the parlour of Ladd Villa on the “ Religious Ideas of the Hindus.” Rev. Dr. Cutter, a Unitarian Minister who introduced the Swami, greeted him at the close of the meeting saying, “ Swami, I do not know whether I have made you a better Hindu, but surely you have made me a better Christian.” On the next day, the Swami gave another parlour talk in the city. On July 1st, he went to the *White Mountains in New Hampshire as the guest of Mr. Herschel C. Parker of the Appalachian Mountain Club of Boston, and on the 8th, spoke before it on the ‘‘ Philosophy of the Hindus.” He then went to Worcester, Mafcs, to attend the summer school for teachers in Clark University. He attended courses on Child-Study, Physiology, Mineralogy, Anatomy, Philosophy, Anthropology with laboratory appliances, and delivered a lecture before the students on the Philosophy of the Hindus, which was highly appreciated. Then he made a journey of 500 miles to Lily Dale, the summer home of the Spiritualists, and on invitation from them attended their seances and meetings and spoke on Spiritualism as understood by the Indian sages. So favourable and profound was the impression made for the Vedanta philosophy that a permanent body of students was formed to continue the study of the Vedanta. After visiting the summer school that was being held at Chant-anqua, the Swami went in the middle of August to Greenacre, Maine, another journey of several hundred miles, and lectured thrice before the Monsalvat School for the Study of Comparative Religions, which used to be held annually under the overspreading branches of an ancient tree known as “ The Swami’s . Pine,” since the Swami Vivekananda taught there. The subjects were: Is Hinduism Pantheistic ?” “ Reincarnation”, and
** The Spiritual Influence of India in the West.” Receiving there a wire from the Swami Vivekananda on his arrival in America in company with the Swami Turiyananda he hastened to his home in the Catskill Mountains. After spending ten happy days with them he returned to New York on October 1st to resume the work of the Vedanta Society. During these travels of 2,000 miles or more, the Swami met and spoke to several thousands of people, many of whom were highly educated, prominent in the professions, or engaged in higher education and in religious work. .
The work of the Vedanta Society of New York for the season 1899—1900 began from the middle of October with Swami Abhedananda delivering a series of ten Sunday public lectures at the Tuxedo Hall up to December, which were very largely attended. Week-day meetings were regularly held at the headquarters, where the Swami gave a course of lectures on Karma Yoga on Tuesday evenings, interviews and personal instructions by appointment on Wednesday afternoons, class-instruction followed by meditation on Thursday evenings, and readings from the Upanishads with comments on Saturday mornings. Questions and answers followed all the lectures and classes, and there was a daily meditation hour from 4 to 5 P.M. The Sunday public lectures at the Tuxedo Hall ended on 1st April, and the Swami Abhedananda after a long and successful season of hard work left New York on April 6th to fulfil some engagements to lecture in other cities such as, Cambridge and Worcester, Massachussetts, and other places in the vicinity of Boston.
After visiting Worcester, Mass., the Swami Abhedananda lectured at Lynn on the “ Religion and Philosophy of the Hindus ” before the Outlook Club to an audience of 300 women, it being a women’s Club. In Waltham, Mass., he spoke before the Psychomath Society on the “ Motherhood of God ” On 22nd April he addressed the Conferences for the Comparative Study of Religions in Cambridge, Mass., his topic being, “Rama-krishna, A Real Mahatman.” Prof. Lanman and Prof. Fay of the Harvard University listened with interest to the lecture, the former, the celebrated Professor of Sanskrit in the Harvard University, addressing the audience on the “ Spirituality of the Hindus.” The Swami was the honoured guest of the Charming Club of Boston on the 23rd at a reception given in the Vendome Hotel, and was invited to speak after dinner. On the 26th he addressed an audience of 800 persons on the “ Religious Ideas of the Hindus” at the Liberal Congress of Religions that was being held at Boston at the time. The lecture proved to be most engrossing. Dr. R. Heber Newton of New York, one of America’s most eminent clergymen, spoke in appreciative terms of Hindu thinkers and spiritual leaders. After the lecture Swami Abhedananda said to him, “ You have paid us a great tribute.” “ You deserved it,” was the emphatic reply. That same evening he was invited to dine with Prof. Lanman. He expressed great sympathy and interest in the Vedanta work which the Swamis were conducting in that country. The Swami made him and Dr. Newton honorary members of the Vedanta Society. The Swami also met and interested by his talks some of the distinguished professors of the Harvard University, such as, President Eliot, Prof. Lyons, and Prof. Fay, and also C. C. Everett of Divinity School. On 29th he attended a lecture by Prof. Royce on Nietzsche, the great German philosopher. After the lecture he was asked by the chairman to make some remarks on the subject. In his address the Swami showed the difference between Nietzsches philosophy and the principles of the Vedanta. The next day he returned to New York.
All these activities created an ever-growing interest in the Vedanta, which was evidenced in many ways,—in loving and reverent attitude to the Swamis, in attendance at the meetings, in financial support, in the sale of Vedanta literature, in application to the Swamis to lecture in various places and to write articles for periodicals, etc., and in the notices in the newspapers showing respectful consideration of the Vedanta philosophy and religion. The Swami proved himself not only an able and efficient teacher, but furthered the success of the work in every other way, by his remarkable organising power, sound judgment and consideration, careful attention to the needs of the Society to the minutest details, and by his power of adaptability to Western methods of work and teaching,
The Vedanta Society had recently removed to a choicer J locality and more commodious quarters at 58th Street, occupy' ing an entire house of four floors. This gave a new impetus to 'i the work. During the summer the Sunday afternoon lectures j were delivered in the Society rooms, and the classes and other 1 meetings were continued as mentioned before. During the \ course of the season 1899—1900 SwamrAbhedananda formed a \ Yoga class and gave practical lessons in breathing exercises,. concentration, meditation and self-control to such earnest students and members as applied for instructions.
During June and most part of July Swami Vivekananda stayed in the Vedanta Society rooms and helped his Brother-Swamis by holding classes and delivering lectures. The Sister Nivedita also lectured twice on “ The Ideals of Hindu Women.” and The Ancient Arts of India.” Her talks and lectures were most entertaining and instructive to the audience. The Vedanta classes and lectures in New York were closed in the middle of July and Swami Abhedananda after taking a little rest of nearly two weeks in the Adirondack Mountains went toChester-,field, Indiana, and lectured on 5th August before the Indiana Association of Spiritualists. The audience numbering about 7,000 people were enthusiastic. On the 7th, he^ spoke on “Immortality,” and on the 7th on “Reincarnation.” Then he went to Greenacre via Massachussets and gave two lectures on Bhagavadgita and held meditation meetings under the “Swami’s Pine.” The closing lecture of the Greenacre season was the lecture of the Swami Vivekananda on “ My Master,” which was read by Swami Abhedananda, and greatly enjoyed by all. On 23rd September, Swami Abhedananda lectured before the Appalachian Mountain Club of Boston at a beautiful summer resort called Minnewasca. He then returned to New York and spoke before the Metaphysical Convention on the “ Universality of the Vedanta.” He was kindly invited to represent the Hindu and Sanskrit scholars of India at a public meeting held in the Columbia University as a tribute to the memory of the late Prof, Max Muller, and spoke on behalf of India acknowledging her indebtedness to him for the great services done by him in the cause of her philosophy and religion.
Swami Abhedananda resumed his public lectures on Sunday afternoons at Carnegie Lyceum, New York, from November for the season of 1900—1901. He also gave a special course of lectures at the Vedanta library on Tuesday evenings and held Yoga classes on Thursday evenings. The Children's class, which had been started by the Swami Turiyananda, was also reopened On December 13th, the Swami was invited to speak before the Council of Jewish women, at Temple Israil, in the city, and gave an interesting talk on the Festivals of the ancient Jews. His broad and liberal views regarding Judaism were highly appreciated. On the first Sunday of the New Year, it was most apropos that he should speak on the “ Religious Need of the Twentieth Century,” in the Carnegie Lyceum. The lecture was favourably noticed in the prominent papers. His lectures on “ How to be a Yogi ” drew large audiences, many of whom were so impressed that they flocked in numbers to him afterwards to receive instructions on Yoga practices. The Swami discreetly chose from amongst them only those who were really earnest, and opened another Yoga class for these new students. On February 19th he spoke on “ My Master,” which made a profound impression on everyone. Sri-Rama-krishna’s Birthday anniversary was fittingly celebrated on the next day, as was the Christmas Day before.
Swami Abhedananda left New York at the end of June and after a few days at the Buffalo Fair and a visit to Cleveland went to California. On his way he met friends on all sides who considered it a privilege to render him every service in their power. Invitations to talk and lecture were everywhere pressed upon him. He reached San Francisco on the 29th of July. During his stay there he met the class of the Vedanta Society at its regular meetings and gave a public lecture at the Union Square Hall on September 1st on “What is Vedanta?” On the urgent soliciation of Prof. Howisson, professor of philosophy in the University of California, Berkeley, he delivered a lecture on the 6th before the faculty and students of that institution. After staying for a few days at the Shanti Ashrama and the Vedanta centre at Los Angeles he returned to New York at the beginning of October, 1901, and was highly pleased with the encouraging state of affairs that met him on his arrival.
He resumed the Vedanta work for the season of 1901—1902 with unusual strength and vitality gained during his restful vacation spent in his journey to the Pacific coast. He began his Sunday public lectures at the Carnegie Lyceum and conducted the classes and other meetings in the Vedanta Society as in the past year. We need not recount his varied activities here in
Suffice it to say that it was greatly due, to his untiring perseverance and faithfulness that the Vedanta steadily spread into broader fields and gained a firmer foothold In the lives Of many American students. Each succeed-J ihg l?dtdf6 found him making a larger application and attract-( ing greater numbers, who became earnest students of the y philosophy he taught with such impressive eloquence, simpli-/ city, and directness. Under his able control and management, I the work of organisation was fully accomplished, and the So-I ciety came to be accepted and recognised as an established fact l by prominent persons and even by many ministers of the Christian Church. Everything seemed to point to an awakening on V the part of the public to the fact that the Vedanta was a power to be reckoned with in the United States.
The Swami Turiyananda began work in Montclair, near * New York, holding a class on Tuesday afternoons, and soon won the love and veneration of all who came in contact with him. A new feature of work in New York was in his charge, this being the Children’s class on Saturday afternoons, in which moral instructions were given by him through stories from the Hito-padesha and other Indian books in a most interesting and helpful manner. He also conducted a meditation class with an increasing number of students. The lectures and classes in the Vedanta Society of New York were conducted by him during April, May and part of June of the year 1900, in the absence of the Swami Abbedananda, and his presence was of great advantage and help to the students. Later he went to Cambridge as the guest of Mrs. Ole Bull and delivered an address before the Cambridge Conference on Sankaracharya. After returning t New York he left for California to wokr there and to establish Shanti Ashrama in a beautiful and secluded —in—the mountains in the San Antone Valley,Santa Clara County about 12 miles from tbe-Lick Observatory. The large tract of land there was the gift of Miss Minnie C. Boock. On the 8th of July, the Swami Turiyananda arrived at Alhambra, near Los Angeles. Thence he went to Los Angeles and worked there for a couple of weeks. On the 26th of July he arrived at San Fran-_xis£o and took charge of the work of the Vedanta Snr.jpf.v t.hgju, On 29th he gave an address on the Gita at the Home of Truth, He held meditation classes in the Society until August 3rd, when accompanied by twelve students he went to establish the Shanti Ashrama, and moulded the lives of the students who lived with him, in a remarkably spiritual way. On the 24th of January 1901, the Swami resumed his work in the city and as he laid greater emphasis on meditation and other practical spiritual exercises, he daily held meditation classes from 31st January to March 26th at the hall of the Vedanta Society, with regular lectures alternately on the Gita and Raja Yoga on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. On March 26th the Swami left for Los Angeles where he taught and lectured for several weeks, returning later to the Ashrama. In September, in the company of a few students he made a trip to Lake Donner and thence returned to San Francisco and continued his work there until December 31st. Then he again went to Los Angeles and later to the Shanti Ashrama, where he trained the students who accompanied him, in the practices of meditation. Unfortunately under the severe strain to which he put himself in the work of training his pupils his health broke down, and according to the request of the Swami Vivekananda he returned to India for rest and recuperation, sailing on the 6$h of June, 1902. A farewell reception was given to him by his devoted students, who were too loath to part from their beloved teacher whf> literally sacrificed himself to initiate them in the joys and mysteries of higher life.