Swami Vivekananda – Boyhood Incidences

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Boyhood Incidences

As a boy I had some white mice. They were kept in a little box in which there were little wheels, and when the mice tried to cross the wheels, the wheels turned and turned, and the mice never got anywhere. So it is with the world and our helping it.

I remember, as a boy, hearing a Christian missionary preach to crowd in India. Among other sweet things he was telling them was, that if he gave a blow to their idol with his stick. what could it do? One of his hearers sharply answered, ‘If I abuse your God, what can He do?’ you would be punished,’ said the preacher, ‘when you die.’ ‘So my idol will punish you when you die,’ retorted the Hindu.

Speech at Parliament of Religions on Hinduism Sept 1893

A hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”(Sept 11, 1893, Parliament of Religions)

I am indebted to my mother for the efflorescence of my knowledge. (Life)

From my boyhood I have been a dare-devil; otherwise could I have attempted to make a tour round the world, almost without a penny in my pocket? (Life)

When I was first learning English, I read an English story book in which there was a story about a dutiful boy who had gone out to work and had given some of his money to his old mother, and this was praised in three or four pages. What was that? No Hindu boy can ever understand the moral of that story. Now I understand it when I hear the Western idea–every man for himself. And some men take everything for themselves, and fathers and mothers and wives and children go to the wall. That should never and nowhere be the ideal of the householder. (Karma Yoga)

Naren’s father, Viswanath Datta sometimes traveled to central and northern India in connection with his work. In 1877, when Naren was fourteen, his father went to Raipur in the Central Provinces. Knowing that he would have to live there for an extended time, his father had his family brought there. Raipur was not connected by railway then; travelers had to go by bullock-carts for more than two weeks along narrow forest paths cut through the dense tropical forests of central India. Naren, as eldest son, was responsible for the manly duty of protecting and guarding his family as they journeyed there. He later recalled an experience he had while traveling on the bullock cart:

What I saw and felt when going through the forest has for ever remained firmly imprinted in my memory, particularly a certain event one day. We traveled by the foot of the Vindhya mountains that day.

The peaks of the ranges on both sides of the road rose very high in the sky; various kinds of trees and creepers bending under the weight of fruits and flowers produced wonderful beauty on the mountainsides. Birds of various colors, flying from tree to tree, filled the air with sweet notes. I saw all these and felt an extraordinary peace. The slow-moving bullock-carts came to a place where two mountain peaks, coming forward – as though in love – locked themselves as if in an embrace – over the narrow forest path. Observing below, at the meeting-point, I saw there was a cleft from the crest to the foot of the mountain on one side of the path; and filling that cleft, there was hanging an enormous honeycomb, the result of bees labor for ages. Filled with wonder, I pondered over the beginning and end of that kingdom of bees, my mind became so much absorbed in the thought of the infinite power of God, the Controller of the three worlds, that I lost consciousness of the external world. I do not remember how long I was lying in the bullock-cart in that condition. But when I regained normal consciousness, I found we had crossed that place and come far away. I was alone in the cart; no one knew anything about it. (source Lilaprasanga)

From my boyhood, whenever I came into contact with a particular object, man or place, it would sometimes seem as if I had been acquainted with it before. But all my efforts to recollect it were unsuccessful. Yet the impression persisted. I’ll give you an instance: One day I was discussing various topics with some friends at a particular place. Suddenly something was said, which reminded me that in some time in the past in this very house I had talked with these same friends on that very subject and that the discussion had even taken the same turn. Later on I thought it might be due to the law of transmigration. But soon afterward I decided that such definite conclusions on the subject were not reasonable. Now I believe that before I was born I must have had visions somehow of those subjects and people with whom I would have to come in contact with in my present birth. Such memories have come to me every now and then throughout my life.

(1879)Just two or three days before the Entrance examination I found that I hardly knew anything of geometry. So I began to study the subject, keeping awake the whole night, and in twenty-four hours I mastered the four books of geometry. (Source: Life of Swami Vivekananda by his eastern and western disciples)

He had, as a student, a power of reading which he described as follows:

It so happened that I could understand an author without reading his book line by line. I could get the meaning by just reading the first and the last line of a paragraph. As this power developed I found it unnecessary to read even the paragraphs. I could follow by reading only the first and last lines of a page. Further, where the author introduced discussions to explain a matter and it took him four or five or even more pages to clear the subject, I could grasp the whole trend of his arguments by only reading the first few lines. (Source: Life of Swami Vivekananda by his eastern and western disciples)

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