When persons who truly depend on their own exertion and have formed fixed aspirations, find greatness in others, they admit it freely and feel a wonderful joy in their hearts. Again, if they find that greatness manifested in any one to an extraordinary degree, their minds constantly dwell on the thought of it, and the more they do so the more are they ravished and dazed in admiration. This goes on for some time. But that does not deflect them from their own path or make them imitate such a person—their lives are not coloured by the acts and thoughts of the other person except through long association, companionship and the sweet bond of love. Narendra was in that state when he first met the Master at Dakshineswar. Although attracted by the Master’s extraordinary renunciation and the absolute agreement between his thoughts and words, Narendra’s heart did not consent to accept him as the ideal of life. Recollections of the Master’s wonderful character and behaviour, no doubt, arose again and again in his mind for some time after his return from Dakshineswar; yet, he felt no urgency in fulfilling his promise of going to him a second time, and applied his mind to doing what he considered his own duty. His impression that the Master was a monomaniac for which his Western education was responsible, was undoubtedly a great factor in postponing his visit indefinitely. Again, besides practising meditation, and studying in the college, Narendra was then engaged daily in systematically learning music and taking physical exercise. Moreover, in imitation of the Brahmo Samaj, he was then forming associations for prayer and discussion in different parts of Calcutta for the mental and spiritual improvement of his friends. Was it, therefore, a matter of surprise that his thought of going to Dakshineswar remained suppressed for a month? Although he was thus held back by his sense of daily duties, his memory and truthfulness were inciting him to go alone to Dakshineswar to fulfil his promise as soon as he could find time. So, we find Narendra one day wending his way alone to Dakshineswar for the second time about a month after his first visit. We give the reader here that day’s events as described to us later on by himself:
“I had no idea that the Dakshineswar Kali temple was so far from Calcutta, for I had gone there only once and that by carriage. I used to visit Dasarathi Sannyal, Satkari Lahiri and other friends at Baranagar and thought that Rasmani’s garden must be somewhere near their houses. But the journey seemed to be never ending, however far I proceeded. Anyway, enquiring of many people, I reached Dakshineswar at last and went direct to the Master’s room I saw him sitting alone, merged in himself, on the small bedstead placed near the bigger one. There was no one with him. No sooner had he seen me than he called me joyfully to him and made me sit at one end of the bedstead. I sat down but found him in a strange mood. He spoke indistinctly something to himself, looked steadfastly at me and was slowly coming towards me. I thought another scene of lunacy was going to be enacted. Scarcely had I thought so when he came to me and placed his right foot on my body, and immediately I had a wonderful experience. I saw with my eyes open that all the things of the room together with the walls were rapidly whirling and receding into unknown region and my I-ness together with the whole universe was, as it were, going to vanish in the all-devouring great void. I was then overwhelmed with a terrible fear; I had known that the destruction of I-ness was death and that death was before me, very near at hand. Unable to control myself, I cried out loudly and said, ‘Ah! What is it you have done to me? I have my parents, you know.’ Giving out a loud laugh to hear those words of mine and touching my chest with his hand, he said, ‘Let it then cease now; it need not be done all at once; it will come to pass in course of time.’ I was amazed to see that extraordinary experience of mine vanish as quickly as it had come when he touched me in that manner and said those words. I came to the normal state and saw things inside and outside the room standing still as before.
“Although it has taken so much time to describe the event, it actually happened in a much shorter time. It produced a great revolution in my mind. I was puzzled and went on linking what it was that had happened. I have seen indeed that the experience came and vanished suddenly by the power of this wonderful person. I had read in books about mesmerism and hypnotism. I was led to wonder if it was anything like these. But my heart refused to admit it. For, persons of great will-power spread their influence on weak minds only and bring about such conditions; but, I am by no means such; rather I have been till now feeling proud of being very intelligent and possessed of great strength of mind. I have not indeed been charmed and have not become a puppet in his hands like ordinary people, who are reduced to that state when they are in the company of persons possessed of extraordinary qualities. Rather I came to the certain conclusion since I saw him first, that he was a monomaniac. Why should I then have been suddenly in that state? I pondered over it but could conclude nothing; there it remained in my heart, an unsolved problem of great import. I remembered the words of the great poet, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ I thought that this might be one such; I reflected and came to the conclusion that the truth about it could not be ascertained. I was, however, determined to be on my guard so that this wonderful madman might not in future bring about such a change in my mind by spreading his influence and gaining mastery over it.
4. Narendra thought variously of the Master and resolved to understand him properly
“I continued thinking—how could I consider that person to be mad who could shatter to pieces the structure of a mind like mine, possessed of a strong power of will and filled with firm impressions, and who could refashion it after his own pattern like a ball of clay? But how could I regard the manner in which he addressed me and the words he spoke aside to me during my first visit to him as otherwise than the raving of a madman? Therefore, just as I could not find out the cause of the aforesaid experience, even so, I could not come to any certain conclusion about this person, pure and simple-hearted like a child. From my boyhood I could not rest satisfied without coming to a conclusion with the help of observation and investigation, reason and argumentation about each person and thing I came in contact with. That nature of mine received a severe shock that day, which created an anguish in my heart. As a result of this, there arose a firmer determination in my mind to understand thoroughly the nature and power of that wonderful person.
5. The Master behaved towards Narendra like one long familiar with him
“My time passed that day in various thoughts and resolutions. But the Master appeared to be a different person altogether after that event and began to feed me lovingly and behave in all matters like one long familiar with me. His behaviour resembled that of people conducting themselves towards their dear friends or relatives when they meet after a long separation. He fed me, talked to me, loved me and cut jokes with me as best he could, and still he remained unsatisfied, as if all these fell far short of what he wanted to do. That love and behaviour of his also caused not a little anxiety in me. Seeing the shades of evening falling, I took leave of him for that day. Pained to the core of his heart, he extracted a promise from me, as on the previous occasion, that I would return to him at the earliest, and then allowed me to go home. And I left Dakshineswar musing on what had happened and on how to solve the problem”
6. Narendra’s third visit
We do not know how long after his second visit Narendra came again to the Master. But seeing that a strong desire arose in his mind to know and understand him after he had become acquainted with that wonderful power of his, we think the delay was not long. That eagerness must have brought him to the lotus feet of the Master at the earliest possible opportunity. But it might have been at the end of a week during which period he had to attend college. When there once arose an inquiry about anything in his mind, Narendra paid no attention to his food, dress or leisure and found no rest in his mind till he could solve it. It is therefore understandable that his mind was in a similar condition in the effort to comprehend the Master. Again, it does not take one long to understand that he made his mind very firm and cautious before he came to the Master for the third time, lest it should be made to undergo a change as on the previous occasion. But what happened was inconceivable. We give the reader here what we heard from both the Master and Narendranath.
On that occasion the Master asked him to accompany him for a walk to Jadu Mallick’s garden hard by, probably because there was a crowd at the Kali temple at that time. Maybe, there was some other reason. Jadunath himself and his mother had great respect and reverence for the Master. They had given orders to the chief officer of their garden that, even if they were absent, the parlour facing the Ganga should be opened for the Master to sit in whenever he came for a walk there. The Master walked with Narendra for some time in the garden on the bank of the Ganga that day. Talking with Narendra, he came to that parlour, sat down there and entered into ecstasy shortly afterwards. Narendra sat near at hand and was calmly observing that state of the Master, when the latter suddenly approached and touched him as before. Although he exercised great caution because of his previous experience, Narendra became completely overwhelmed at that powerful touch. He lost consciousness completely that day, not partially as had happened on the previous occasion. When he regained consciousness after sometime, he saw that the Master was passing his hand on his chest. On seeing him come to normal state, the Master smiled gently and sweetly.
Narendra did not tell us anything of the nature of the experience he had after he had lost his consciousness. We thought he did not express it to us because it was a secret. But we realized later from what the Master told us one day in the course of his conversation on this event, that it was natural for Narendra not to have known it. The Master said:
“When Narendra had lost his normal consciousness I asked him that day many questions, such as who he was, where he came from, why he came (was born), how long he would be here (in this world) and so on and so forth. Entering into the depth of his being, he gave proper answers to all these questions. These answers of his confirmed what I thought and saw and knew about him in my visions. It is forbidden to say all those things. But I have known from all these that on the day when he will know who he is, he will no more remain in this world; he will, with a strong power of will, immediately give up his body through Yoga. Narendra is a great soul perfect in meditation.”
Once again, later, the Master told us a little of the visions he had had about Narendra. We narrate them here for the convenience of the reader. For, when we learned of those visions from the Master, we understood that he had had them before Narendra came to Dakshineswar. The Master said:
“One day I saw that, through Samadhi, my mind was going up by a luminous path. Going beyond the gross world studded with the sun, the moon and stars, it entered first of all into the subtle world of ideas. The more it began to ascend to higher and higher strata of that realm, the more did I see beautiful ideal forms of deities existing on both sides of the path. It came gradually to the last extremity of that region. I saw a fence made of light there separating the realm of the divisible from that of the indivisible. Leaping over that fence, the mind entered by degrees the realm of the indivisible. I saw that there was no more any person or thing there having a form. As if afraid to enter there, even the gods and goddesses possessing heavenly bodies exercised their authority over realms far below. But the very next moment I saw seven wise Rishis having bodies consisting of divine Light only, seated there in Samadhi. I felt that, in virtue and knowledge, love and renunciation, they had excelled even the gods and goddesses, not to speak of human beings. Astonished, I was pondering over their greatness when I saw before me that a part of the homogeneous mass of Light of the “Abode” of the indivisible, devoid of the slightest tinge of difference, became solidified and converted into the form of a divine Child. Coming down to one of those Rishis, and throwing Its soft and delicate arms round his neck It embraced him and, afterwards, calling him with Its ambrosial words sweeter than the music of the Vina, made great efforts to wake him up from Samadhi. The Rishi woke up at the delicate and loving touch and looked on at that wonderful child with half-shut eyes, free from winking. Seeing the state of his bright face, full of delight, I thought that the Child was the treasure of his heart—their familiarity was of eternity. The extraordinary divine Child then expressed infinite joy and said to him, ‘I am going, you must come with me.’ The Rishi said nothing at that request but his loving eyes expressed his hearty assent. Afterwards, looking on the child with loving eyes for some time, he entered again into Samadhi. Astonished, I then saw that a part of the mind and body of that Rishi, converted into the form of bright light, came down to the earth along the reverse path. Hardly had I seen Narendra for the first time when I knew that he was that Rishi.”1
10. Narendra’s conviction about the Master—as the result of his wonderful direct experience
Narendra must have been astounded when that change in his mental state was produced for the second time by the influence of the Master’s wonderful power. He felt in his heart of hearts how unavailing the power of his mind and intellect was, compared with that insuperable divine power. His former impression about the Master, that he was a monomaniac, was changed. But it cannot be said that he understood the meaning and purpose of what the Master said to him in seclusion, when he was at his lotus feet for the first time at Dakshineswar. The Master, he felt, was an extraordinary great soul possessed of divine power; the Master could turn at will the mind of a man like him to a higher direction; and with it he understood that, as the Master’s will was completely identified with that of the divine Lord, that kind of desire did not arise in the Master’s mind in respect of all; and it was not a small piece of good fortune for him to have the grace of such a sublime soul without asking for it.
11. The consequent change of Narendra’s conception of the Guru
Narendra was compelled to come to the aforesaid conclusion and to change many of his former conceptions in the wake of it. He had formerly a great objection to accept as Guru or spiritual guide one who possessed small powers and visions and was weak like himself and to engage himself in carrying out indiscriminately whatever he said. It is needless to say that that attitude was confirmed when he joined the Brahmo Samaj. As the result of the events of those two days, that conception of his was severely shaken. He understood that such souls, though rare, are actually born in the world— souls, whose extraordinary love, purity, penance and renunciation far surpass the conception of God existing in the little minds and intellects of ordinary men. Therefore, if they are accepted as Gurus, ordinary men will be greatly benefited. Consequently he was ready to accept the Master as the Guru; but he could not go so far as to accept indiscriminately whatever the Master said.
12. Narendra grew in renunciation and detachment in the company of the Master
The idea that God could not be realized without renunciation prevailed in Narendra’s mind from his boyhood. It was due to his impressions from previous births. This accounts for the fact that, although he became a regular member of the Brahmo Samaj, he was never inclined to join their meetings and associations for the reform of the institution of marriage. This idea of renunciation, latent in him, now grew wonderfully, as he had the blessed privilege of meeting the all-renouncing Master and of being acquainted with his extraordinary powers.
13. Narendra resolved not to accept anything said by the Master without testing it
But one thing became the greatest concern of Narendra’s thought from now on. On coming in contact with such great powerful souls, the human mind, he thought, generally believes in every word they say without weighing it properly or at all; and he must save himself from that. Therefore, although he was now cherishing great respect and reverence for the Master on account of the events of the two days mentioned above, he was nevertheless determined never to accept anything regarding the Master’s visions and experiences without personally having an immediate knowledge of them, or subjecting them to a most rigorous test of reason, even if it led him to incur the displeasure of the Master. Consequently, just as on the one hand, he was solicitous of keeping his mind always ready to receive the unknown truths of the spiritual world, so, on the other hand,, he engaged himself, since then, in putting to a severe test the Master’s wonderful behaviour and visions.
14. Narendra’s conduct since then
It was evident to the keen intellect of Narendra that only by accepting the Master as an Incarnation of God, could the Master’s strange words during their first meeting, because of which he had considered him a monomaniac, yield a consistent meaning. But how could his truth-seeking and rational mind accept the fact all of a sudden? So he decided that if ever God gave him the power of understanding those things, he would discuss them. Thus relegating the problem to a dark corner of his mind, he now devoted himself to learning from and discussing with the Master how to realize God and be blessed.
A powerful mind feels a strong resistance from within when, at the time of accepting a new truth, it has to change its former convictions. Narendra was now in that predicament. Though acquainted with the Master’s wonderful power, he could not completely accept him, and though feeling attracted, he tried to stand aloof from him. We shall see later how matters stood as the result of such an effort of his.
1. The Master described this vision to us in his extraordinary, simple language. It is impossible for us to reproduce perfectly that language. Having no other course left open to us; we have kept his language as far as it lay in our power, and have expressed it briefly here. Asking him about the Child of his vision, one day, we came to know that the Master himself assumed the form of that Child.