11. THE EASTERN TOUR – II
To return to the summer of 1894, the season when crowds of people left the hot cities for country homes or resorts, Swamiji, too, took what might be called a vacation. The only information we have at present regarding his activities during July is gathered from two letters published in Volume VIII of “The Complete Works” The first of these was written to Mrs. Hale from Fishkill Landing, New York, where he was visiting Dr. and Mrs. Guernsey, and the second to the Hale sisters (by which term we generally mean the two McKindley sisters as well as the two Hale sisters) from Swampscott, Massachusetts. The Guernseys had evidently taken Swamiji into their family, much as the Hales had done in Chicago and the Bagleys in Detroit. It would seem that wherever he stayed for any length of time there was a family made especially for him – a family who loved him as their own and whom he loved, who understood his work, and who were in a position to help him. There were, of course, in every city many people who sincerely respected him; there were also those who were his close companions and with whom he felt entirely free. But, on the other hand, many were those who lionized Swamiji with little or no understanding of either his personality or his work. Especially was this true on the East coast, for US Swamiji’s fame grew, so also did his invitations from the wealthy and the fashionable. In a postscript to his letter to Mrs. Hale from Fishkill Landing, he wrote:
“… I am bearing the heat very well here. I had an invitation to Swampscott on the sea from a very rich lady whose acquaintance I made last winter in New York, but I declined with thanks. I am very careful now to take the hospitality of anybody here, especially the rich. I had a few other invitations from some very rich people here. I refused ; I have by this time
seen the whole business through. Lord bless you and yours, Mother Church, for your sincerity. Oh! it is so rare in this world.”
Nevertheless Swamiji did visit Swampscott in July. Whether he had a change of heart regarding the “very rich lady,” or whether he received another invitation from someone else in Swampscott, we do not know. We only know at present that on July 26 he wrote from Swampscott to the Hale sisters a lighthearted, almost ecstatic letter, which would indicate that his spirits were soaring. From this letter, one also learns a little more of his activities. “… I am going to Greenacre,” he wrote. “I had been to see Mrs. Breed. Mrs. Stone was there, with whom is residing Mrs. Pullman and all the golden bugs, my old friends hereabouts. They are kind as usual. On my way Backfrom Grecnacre I am going to Annisquam to see Mrs. Baglcy for a few days. Darn it, I forget everything. I had duckings in the sea like a fish. I am enjoying every bit of it.” In this same letter one sees again how close the Hale sisters were to him, how free they were with him – able to tease him, even to play jokes on him and be assured of his laughter. “What nonsense was the song Harriet taught me ‘dans la plaine’?” he wrote, “the deuce take it. I told it to a French scholar and he laughed and laughed till the fellow was well nigh burst at my wonderful translation. That is the way you would have taught me French. You are a pack of fools and heathens, I tell you. Now are you gasping for breath like a huge fish stranded ? I am glad that you are sizzling. Oh! how nice and cool it is here, and it is increased a hundred fold when I think about the gasping, sizzling, boiling, frying four old maids, and how cool and nice I am here. Whooooooo! “
Thinking of Swamiji’s lectures, learning of the raps he could give ministers and matrons alike, considering the majesty with which he strode through America undaunted by hardship and malicious opposition, reading his letters of fiery leadership to India, and again, remembering the silent and fathomless depths of contemplation into which he often fell, one sometimes forgets how youpg he was, how ready to take duckings in the sea and to JLaugh heartily with those whom he loved. This was, of course, pot only because he was barely in his thirties, but also because, living as he did on the very edge of the Infinite, where the great festival of the Divine Mother is continuously taking place* Swamiji was profoundly, eternally young.
In the last chapter we dwelt upon the trials Swamiji underwent during the summer of 1894, and the reader may have been left with an impression that this was a time of despondency for him. But such was not the case. Despite the fact that the outward circumstances of his life had been dark indeed and were to remain unsettled until the end of August, inwardly he was filled with spiritual joy, and from this inward and most important point of view, this summer can be looked upon aa immensely fruitful. If there is a contradiction here, it is of the kind that has characterized the lives of all great prophets, who necessarily live on two levels – the human and the divine.
Nor is it altogether strange that Swamiji’s spirits rose during the summer. Ever since his arrival in America in July of 1893 he had known little but cities and towns, trains and hotels. He had been under the constant strain of lecturing, making engagements, rushing here and there in accordance with a time schedule and, on the whole, living a life almost diametrically opposite to that of his years of wandering through the lofty Himalayas and vast plains of India. For a year he had kept his mind as much as possible in the relative world, restraining it from its natural state of spiritual absorption, lest, as was the case when he first arrived in America, he should become entirely oblivious of his surroundings, missing his engagements and perhaps even becoming lost in the maze of a foreign city. In this connection Sister Nivedita gives a picture of Swamiji during his first days in America. “There are still some amongst those who entertained him in Chicago in 1893 she writes in “The Master As I Saw Him,” “who tell of the difficulty with which, on his first arrival in the West, he broke through the habit of falling constantly into absorption. He would enter a tram, and have to pay the fare for the whole length of the line, more than once in a single journey, perhaps, being too deeply engrossed in thought to know when he had reached his destination.” As if it were not enough for Swamiji to become, as it were, a “man of action,”, attending to all the details that encumber the life of a lecturer and celebrity, he was forced to meet the nagging persecution of his enemies which, like the dregs of world thought, was inflicted upon him at every turn. Although that persecution had continued during the summer of 1894, he was at least afforded a respite from lecturing, and it is little wonder, therefore, that his mind at once soared upward like a spring suddenly released.
During this period one can detect a turning point in Swamiji’s thought and the beginnings, at least, of a new idea regarding his mission in America. The enthusiasm with which he had at first gone from place to place explaining the customs and religions of his motherland had, to some extent, cooled, and we find his thoughts during the summer months beginning to work along new lines. One indication of this is to be found in his letter of July 26 to the Hale sisters: “Miss Philips has a
beautiful place somewhere in N.Y. State” he wrote, “mountains, lake, river, forest altogether – what more? I am going to make a Himalayas there and start a monastery as sure as I am living – I am not going to leave this country without throwing one more apple of discord into this already roaring, fighting, kicking, mad whirlpool of American religion.” Although this was written half in jest, it nonetheless shows that Swamiji was thinking in terms of an American ashrama. Another desire he had at this time was to write a book, a fact which indicates that new ideas were arising within his mind and seeking outward expression.
During the summer he was also, perhaps, beginning to relinquish his plans for raising money in America. In a letter dated August 20, which will be given in full later on, he wrote to Isabelle McKindley: “I have given up all money making
schemes and will be quite satisfied with a bite and a shed and work on.” This change of mind was no doubt due not to discouragement but to a dislike of money itself, inherent in the man of renunciation, for even though Swamiji was not attempting to raise money for himself but for India, the very sight and touch of it was repugnant to him. “You know the greatest difficulty with me is to keep or even tb touch money,” he wrote to Alasinga on August 31. “It is disgusting and debasing”
But Swamiji’s work of lecturing about India and of trying to earn money for her had been the two ostensive objects of his life in America. If he was not to continue along these lines, then what pattern was his work to take? Surely, a change was taking place in his mind, and, on the whole, one cannot view this summer of 1894 as merely a period of relaxation for him, a sort of hiatus between seasons; it was rather a period of transition in which his mind, freed from daily pressure, tended toward its natural state of creative quiet, a state from which would eventually arise new modes of thought and activity. As though by some cosmic intention, the outward circumstances of his life at this time seem to have been ready-made for him. It was toward the end of July, when he was in a mood of spiritual creativity and when, consciously or unconsciously, he was seeking a new form of approach to the American people, that he went to Greenacre.
The community of Greenacre, newly founded by Miss Sarah J. Farmer, was, in a sense, one of the outcomes of the Parliament of Religions. It was a summer colony or retreat on the bank of the Piscataqua River, near Eliot, in Maine, the purpose of which was to put into practice the ideal of the harmony of all religions. The Greenacre Religious Conferences went considerably further than the Parliament of Religions in this respect, for they represented the overthrow of orthodox views and brought together the seething new religious thought of the age. Inevitably there were in the assemblage a number of cranks and followers of freakish, lly-by-night sects, and, at least during the first summer of the Conferences, a kind of wild exaltation pervaded the group. But for all that, the men and women of Greenacre had kicked over the traces of a narrow, stereotyped religion and were directing all their energies toward evolving a new pattern of faith. They were earnest, vital and unafraid. Among them, moreover, were thinkers, scholars and people who, in one way or another, were awake to the neecTof a spiritual renascence and who were earnestly struggling to bring it into being. Nowhere else could Swamiji have found in one place a group more receptive to his ideas and more ready to benefit from his influence. These circumstances, together with the fact that Greenacre offered to Swamiji the wide, unpaved vistas of open country and days in which his mind was free to plunge into profound contemplation or to lift in ecstasy, make it seem that, like other events in his life, the founding of the Greenacre Religious Conferences in 1894 was part of the same divine plan that had brought him to America.
It was Miss Sarah Farmer, whom Swamiji had met in New York, who had invited him to Greenacre. Miss Farmer was the daughter of the famous Moses Gerrish Farmer, who, some ten years prior to Edison’s invention of a marketable electric bulb, had “lighted a house in Cambridge with forty incandescent lamps in multiple circuit.” Mr. Farmer, it is recorded, used frequently to tell his daughter that the chief principle of the inventor was inspiration and that “he who could grasp that inspiration and walk boldly on. to him was vouchsafed the success that men respect and prize.” Miss Farmer grasped the inspiration for Greenacre probably at the Parliament of Religions and walked boldly on, organizing the Greenacre Religious Conferences, to which anyone with something constructive to say might come and lecture. “We have no room for iconoclasts,” she is reported as having said. “Those are the only ones we bar. All others are welcome to come and express their views. All are listened to with respect and attention.”
The result was, of course, a symposium – if not a jumble – of every kind of religious thought – from Vedanta to the wildest spiritualism. With humor and with an all-encompassing tenderness, Swamiji wrote to Mary Hale of his companions at Greenacre:
One Mr. Colville from Boston is here ; he speaks every day, it is said, under spirit control. The Editor (?) of the Universal Truth from the top floor of Jimmy Mills has settled herself down here – She is conducting religious services and holding classes to heal all manner of diseases and very soon I expect them giving eyes to the blind, etc. etc. After all it is a queer gathering – They do not care much about social laws and are quite free and happy – Mrs. Mills is quite brilliant and so are many other ladies – A lady named Mrs. Chapin whom all along I had taken for a widder now proves to have a husband all along – She is a very beautiful lady – Another lady from Detroit, very cultured and with beautiful black eyes and long hair is going to take me to an island 15 miles into the sea. Hope we will have nice time – Mrs. Arthur Smith is here. Miss Guernsey went home from Swampscott … – It is a beautiful and nice place and the bathing is splendid – Cora Stockham has made a bathing dress for me and I am having as good times in the water as a duck. This is delicious even for the denizens of Mudville. … There is here Mr. Wood of Boston who is one of the great lights of your sect [Christian Science]. But he objects to belong to the sect of Mrs. Whirlpool [Mary Baker Eddy] so he calls himself a mental healer of metaphysical, chemico-physical-religiosio what not etc. . . . – Mrs. Figs of Mills Company gives a class every morning and Mrs. Mills is jumping all about the place. They are all in high spirits … You will be astounded with the liberty they enjoy in the camps, but they are very good and pure people – a little erratic that is all.”
But aside from the religious oddities who romped over the hills, there were men and women of more serious and sound frame of mind. There was, for instance, Dr. Lewis G. Janes, who was to become one of Swamiji’s devoted friends. “There is my friend, Dr. Janes of New York, President of the Ethical Culture Society [of Brooklyn]” Swamiji wrote to the Hales from Green-acre, “who has begun his lecture. I must go to hear him. He and I agree so much”
According to an early edition of “The Life” Swamiji had met Dr. Janes in New York prior to his visit to Greenacre. “At a lecture given in the parlour of a friend,” “The Life” tells, “he chanced to meet Dr. Lewis G. Janes, … who was so much struck with his unusuaTattainments as well as with his message that he invited him at once to give a series of lectures on the Hindu Religion before the Brooklyn Ethical Association.” (Actually, Janes invited Swamiji to give one lecture, which led to a series, which, in turn, as will be seen further on, was to have fateful consequences.)
Swamiji thought highly of the work carried on at Greenacre. In 1895 he wrote to Mrs. Bull, who had offered to contribute to his Indian fund: “I sinceVely believe that you ought to turn all your help to Mis$ Farmer’s Greenacre work this year. India can wait as she is waiting centuries and an immediate work at hand should always have the preference.” In Miss Farmer’s Green-acre work Swamiji saw the practical application of his teaching that religious growth never goes from evil to good but from good to better. In December of 1895 he wrote to her:
There is a mass of thought which is at the present time struggling to get expression. It teaches us that higher direction and not destruction is the law. It teaches us that it is not a world of bad and good, but good and better – and still better. It stops short of nothing but acceptance. It teaches that no situation is hopeless, and as such accepts every form of mental, moral or spiritual thought where it already stands, and without a word of condemnation tells it that so far it has done good, now it is time to do better. … It above all teaches that the kingdom of heaven is already in existence if we will have it, that perfection is already in man if he will see it.
The Greenacre meetings last summer were so wonderful, simply because you opened yourself fully to that thought which has found in you so competent a medium of expression, and because you took your stand on the highest teaching of this thought that the kingdom of heaven already exists.
You have been consecrated and chosen by the Lord as a channel for converting this thought into life, and every one that helps you in this wonderful work is serving the Lord.
Our Gita teaches that he who serves the servants of the Lord is His highest worshipper. You are a servant of the Lord, and as a disciple of Krishna I will always consider it a privilege and worship to render you any service in the carrying out of your inspired mission wherever I be.
Sarah Farmer has been described as a gentle woman in gray, with steadfast eye and purpose, who “has given liberally of her
patrimony, so liberally as to cause the selfish and the cautious to wonder.” She was, indeed, so selfless, so sincere in her religious endeavor that she was one of the very few people from whom Swamiji would take advice regarding his work in America. “. . . through the mercy of Ramakrishna,” he once wrote to Mrs. Bull, “my instinct ‘sizes up’ almost infallibly a human face as soon as I see it, and the result is this: you may do anything you please with my affairs, I will not even murmur – I will be only too glad to take Miss Fanner’s advice, in spite of ghosts and spooks. Behind the spooks I see a heart of immense love, only covered with a thin film of laudable ambition – even that is bound to vanish in a few years.”
To reach Greenacre one embarked upon a small river steamer at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and disembarked an hour or so laier at the wooded and knolled acres of the retreat. On the flat land by the river, in which Swamiji sometimes “had as good times in the water as a duck,” was “Sunrise Camp” – a group of small tents for those who could not afford the luxury of the Greenacre Inn. A little toward the hills was a much larger tent, at the peak of which waved a white flag. This was called the Eirenion or Hall of Peace. Here lectures were given and here also the heterogeneous worshipers meditated together. “Through all the throng,” writes an impressed witness of the scene, “there was a silent sympathy. Yet in no two hearts were there the same ideals, the same beliefs.” But spiritually substantial as the Hall of Peace may have been, it was, as were the smaller tents of Sunrise Camp, liable to be blown away by a strong wind. One remembers Swamiji’s hilarious description of such an event in a letter to Mary Hale: “Yesterday there was a tremendous cyclone which gave a good ‘treatment* to the tents. The big tent under which they had the lectures, had developed so much spirituality, under the ‘treatment,* that it entirely disappeared from mortal gaze and about two hundred chairs were dancing about the grounds under spiritual ecstasy ! “
On a hill that rose from the flat land was the Greenacre Inn, where the more wealthy visitors stayed. This inn was surrounded by several small cottages, one of which was named “Nightingale’s Rest” in honor of the singer, Miss Emma Thuisby, whom Swamiji Tiad met in New York and who later became one of his followers. Over the hill, nearly a mile from the river, was a wood in which, here and there, rose towering pines named by Mrs. Ole Bull “the Lysekloster pines,” in honor of her home in Norway. The Lysekloster pines were, perhaps, the most important part of Greenacre, for here religious classes were held daily, at which a teacher – Jewish, Christian (generally of a non-orthodox variety) or Hindu – would sit under his chosen pine, surrounded by his students. A reporter of the Lewiston Saturday Journal of August 12, 1899, has left an excellent picture of those forest classes:
. . . The forenoon discourses of the early hour are in the tent near the Inn. But later all walk up over
the hill to the Lysekloster pines….A person standing
at a little distance can scarcely sec that there are people beneath the tree so lowly do the branches swing. A more delicious spot than one of these trees affords to listen I cannot conceive. The scene is far retired from all that can disturb. It is so far from the highway that there is no rumble of wheels. The only sound is the chirp of the birds and the voice of the speaker coming in mellowed tones from under the great tree.
The listeners loll about on the ground as suits them best. A few of the elderly people have chairs. The middle-aged and young are entirely unconventional. Some lie on their backs listening and looking up into the blue arch of the heavens. Others lie resting on one elbow and meditatively pluck in pieces the leaves of the shrubs that surround, as they listen.
Under one of the tall Lysekloster pines. Swami ji held classes every morning, and thus it became known for years to come as “The Swami’s Pine.” There Swami Saradananda spoke and, later, Swami Abhedananda. Of Swamiji’s classes we know unfortunately little at the present time, but from that little it is clear that in his exalted mood, surrounded by receptive and eager seekers of truth, he spoke more of philosophy than of the manners and customs of India. One gathers this from excerpts of the Greenacre Voice, a magazine published by the colony.
Although the 1894 issues are no longer available, I have come across in another magazine (the Arena, October 1899) one or two quotations taken from them. The first consists of Swamiji’s translation of verses from the “Avadhuta Gita” – one of the most uncompromisingly monistic of Vedantic texts:
Under the Swami’s famous pine at Greenacre, Vivekananda said:
“I am neither body nor changes of the body; nor am I senses nor object of the senses. I am Existence Absolute. Bliss Absolute. Knowledge Absolute. I am It. I am It.
“I am neither death nor fear of death ; nor was I ever born, nor had I parents. I am Existence Absolute. Knowledge Absolute. Bliss Absolute. I am it. I am It.
“I am not misery nor have I misery. I am not enemy nor have I enemies. I am Existence Absolute.
Bliss Absolute. Knowledge Absolute. I am It. I am It.
“I am without form, without limit, beyond space, beyond time ; I am in everything, I am the basis of the universe – everywhere am I. I am Existence Absolute.
Bliss Absolute. Knowledge Absolute. I am It. I am It.”
Another scrap of quotation from the Greenacre Voice reads as follows:
Says Vivekananda, “You and I and everything in the universe are that Absolute, not parts, but the whole. You are the whole of that Absolute.”
As far as can be learned at the present, and to judge from the little we know of Swamiji’s Greenacre classes, it was there that he taught for the first time in America the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, as such, to a group of eager listeners. “I teach them all Shivoham, Shivoham,” he wrote to Mary Hale, “and they all repeat it – innocent and pure as they are and brave beyond all bounds and so I am happy and ‘glorified.” Although it cannot be supposed that at Greenacre Swamiji formulated his later method of teaching in the West, this period can be thought of as a foreshadowing of what was to come – the beginnings of a new method of work.
Swamiji not only taught Advaita Vedanta beneath his pine, but, to his utmost joy, meditated and also slept beneath it. In his letter to Mary and Harriet Hale he wrote: “The other night the camp people went to sleep beneath a pine tree under which I sit every morning a la India and talk to them.. Of course I went with them, and we had a nice night under the stars, sleeping on the lap of mother earth, and I enjoyed every bit of it. I cannot describe to you that night’s glories – after a year of brutal life that I have led, to sleep on the ground, to meditate under the tree in the forest!” Swamiji again spoke of this blessed relief in a letter to Isabelle McKindley, which will be quoted in full later on: “Perhaps I did not tell you in my last how I slept and lived and preached under the trees and for a few days at least found myself once more in the atmosphere of heaven.”
Indeed, to judge from Swamiji’s letters, he was in a state of spiritual ecstasy at Greenacre, a state in which all things were to him “covered with God.” Even the most commonplace of events were to him manifestations of divinity. One can picture him in the great storm that struck Greenacre on July 30, watching the campers battle with the cyclone and, no doubt, helping them save their tents from destruction. To others this may have been simply a necessary tussle with the wind and rain, but to Swamiji it was the glorious struggle of man’s soul against the onslaughts of nature. To the Hale sisters he wrote: “Thank God for making me poor, thank God for making these children in the tents poor. The Dudes and Dudines are in the Hotel, but iron-bound nerves and souls of triple steel and spirits of fire are in the camp. If you had seen them yesterday,
when the rain was falling in torrents and the cyclone was overturning everything, hanging by their tent strings to keep them from being blown down, and standing on the majesty of their souls – these brave ones – it would have done your hearts good – I will go a hundred miles to see the like of them. Lord bless them.” ‘
Yet, although Swamiji was living in that state in which all things were fraught with glory, he was not by any means deceived by what was going on around him. While his vision penetrated to the spiritual reality behind people and events he never overlooked anything; indeed, he perceived the surface reality with a clearness and accuracy not given to others. In the same letter in which he told of his great joy at witnessing the valor of the Greenacre campers, he wrote: “One thing – they are a dry sort of people here – and as to that very few in the whole world are there that are not. They do not understand ‘Madhava,’ the Sweet One. They are either intellectual or go after faith cure, table turning, witchcraft, etc., etc!. Nowhere have I heard so much about ‘love, life and liberty’ as in this country, but nowhere is it less understood. Here God is either a terror or a healing power, vibration, and so forth. Lord bless their souls! And these parrots talk day and night of love and love and love!
In the same vein, Swamiji wrote at another time and in another connection: “I am perfectly aware that although some truth underlies the mass of mystical thought which has burst upon the Western world of late, it is for the most part full of motives unworthy or insane. For this reason, I have never had anything to do with these phases of religion, either in India or elsewhere, and mystics as a class are not very favourable to me.”
But despite the Greenacre mystics by whom Swamiji was surrounded he was living in a state of high spiritual ecstasy. “Instead of materializing the spirit, i.c. dragging the spiritual to the material plane as these fellers do,” he wrote to the Hale sisters, “convert the matter into spirit – catch a glimpse at least every day of that world of infinite beauty and peace and purity, the spiritual, and try to live in it day and night – Seek not – touch not with youftoes anything which is uncanny – Let your souls ascend day and night like an unbroken string unto the feet of the beloved, whose throne is in your own heart, and let the rest take care of themselves – i.e. the body and everything else. . . .
“Stick to God. Who cares what comes in the body or in anywhere ? Through the terrors of evil say My God, my love, through the pangs of death say My God, My Love, through all the evils under sun say My God, My Love, Thou art here, I see
Thee, Thou art with me I feel thee – I am Thine – take me – I am not of the world’s but Thine – leave not Thou me. Do not go for glass beads leaving the mine of diamonds. This life is a great chance – What – seekest thou the pleasures of this world ? He is the fountain of all bliss – Seek for the highest, aim for the highest and you shall reach the highest.”
We have found two pictures of Swamiji taken at Greenacre under his pine. One of these, which was among Isabelle McKindley’s treasures, shows him standing with folded arms, his eyes looking as eyes look when the whole world is seen as permeated by Divinity. The other, in which he is sitting on the ground with his class about him, may well be the photograph he spoke of in his letter to the Hale sisters: “Herewith I send a photograph Cora Stockham took of the group under the tree. It is only a proof and will fade away under exposure, but I cannot get anything better at present.” Very likely a more durable print was made; for both pictures reproduced in this book have been taken from finished photographs.
As the years went on Greenacre increased and flourished, many men and women offering their time and support. The work had no endowment, but rested simply, as Miss Farmer said, “on the promises of God which have never failed.” According to a news article, many famous leaders of thought came during the summers to lecture and to give “their time and their efforts, grateful to be allowed the opportunity of addressing such an audience as groups under and around one of the great Lysekloster pines.” “It appears a singular thing,” this same report continued, “that so many famous people could have been attracted to this little town up in Maine; that they have been sufficiently interested in this work and this concourse of people, to be willing to come and give so freely that for which their admiring fellows in other parts were so anxious to pay.” All who wrote of Greenacre wondered at the sense of peace and upliftment the place imparted, a serenity, to be found nowhere else, that captivated faith-healers and sound philosophers alike. But was this attraction really to be wondered at ? Here under the tall Lysekloster pines the great prophet of the age meditated and spoke in one of his most ecstatic moods – a mood comparable perhaps only to that which he experienced the
following summer at Thousand Island Park. It was not really
a ”singular thing” that for many years afterwards hundreds were attracted to the “little town up in Maine.” During the two weeks of Swamiji’s visit to Greenacre, he not only enlightened scores of earnest seekers of truth but left behind him an atmosphere of intense spirituality. And during those same weeks he himself perhaps began to see in a new light his mission to America.
On Saturday,August 11, 1894, Swamiji wrote–feom Grecn-acre to the Hale sistgrs: “On Sunday [actually Monday, August 15]” Tam going to lecture at Plymouth at the ‘Sympathy of Religions’ meetings of Col. Higginson.” In the early part of his life Thomas Wentworth Higginson had been a pastor of various Unitarian churches in Massachusetts. Later, having been an ardent Abolitionist, he fought in the Civil War, in which he organized and led the first regiment of Negro soldiers. But in 1864 Higginson retired from the Army and became known, not as a military man but as a writer, a liberal reformer and thinker, who leaned, as did many other Cambridge scholars, toward Transcendentalism and who continued to do so long after that trend of thought had become outmoded. In 1894 Higginson was a vigorous seventy-one and might be met, as Van Wvck Brooks tells, “on his high-wheeled bicycle, bolt upright, scorching at five miles an hour through the streets of Cambridge.” Higginson had spoken at the Parliament of Religions and was one of the few Christian speakers who seemed to comprehend The purpose of that gathering. He was also aware of its actual spirit, observing at one point during the proceedings that the universal feeling was that “each one of [ the foreign delegates ] might have been a very respectable man if he had been brought up in our Sunday schools.” He did not “tolerate” other religions as “dim twilights” presaging the full glory of Christianity, but accepted each as an efficacious, though inadequate, pathway to God. “Each alone is partial, limited, unsatisfying,” he had said in his paper, “The Sympathy
of Religions” ; “it takes all of them together to represent the . . . Religion of the Ages, Natural Religion.” This was, of course, heresy. But Higginson, long famous for his liberalism, influenced thousands of thinking Americans newly emerged from the orthodox cocoon. It is not to be wondered at that he greatly admired Swamiji and subsequently invited him to speak at a meeting of the Free Religious Association, of which lie was president and which had been founded by Emerson and others for the purpose of widening contemporary religious thought into an all-embracing sympathy.
Regrettably, Swamiji’s lecture of August 13 before the Free Religious Association at Plymouth, Massachusetts, is not at present available, but the very fact that he had been invited to lecture before that body is a sound indication that the circles of liberal religious thought allied themselves with him.
Leaving Plymouth, Swamiji again visited his New York friends, Dr. and Mrs. Guernsey, who were spending the summer at the small town of Fishkill Landing, on the bank of the Hudson River. Here he stayed only a few days and then, on the invitation of Mrs. John Bagley, traveled to her summer home in Annisquam, Massachusetts.
It was almost a year to the day since Swamiji had first visited Annisquam as a guest of Professor John Henry Wright and had there given his first lecture in an American church. He had then been unknown ; he had had no credentials and little money, indeed nothing but a few newly made friends and some ochre robes. He had written at that time, “I am trying my best to find out any plank I can float upon . . Now, a year later, he was famous, recognized by thousands as a great exponent of Hinduism and loved and revered as a prophet by innumerable loyal and influential friends. In the fitness of things, it was while Swamiji was in Annisquam that news of the Madras Address, a document that put the seal of official approval upon his year of labor in the West, was published in the American newspapers.
The times had changed; but except for a greater mastery of English oratory, a greater knowledge of the American people, and, above all, a greater manifestation of spiritual power, Swamiji himself had not changed. He was still, as Mrs. Bagley
wrote of him, “a strong, noble human being who walks with God … as simple and trustful as a child.’ He was still and always the very embodiment of purity, whom the world could not harm either by vicious criticism or by fervid admiration – and of both he had had a lion’s share.
Swamiji arrived in Annisquam around August 16 and remained until (at the earliest) September 5. “I shall be here” he wrote to Mary Hale on August 31, “till Tuesday next [September 4] at least, on which day I am going to lecture here in Annisquam.” Since the village was too small to support a newspaper of its own, this lecture was reported by the Gloucester Daily Times of September 6, as follows:
Mechanic Hall was well filled on Tuesday evening to hear the lecture given by our visiting friend, the Hindoo monk. He was introduced to the audience by Prof. Wright, who also made some preliminary remarks befitting the occasion. The Lecturer alluded to the visit he made to this village last year, and stated that the address he gave here at that time in the church was the first public discourse that he ever gave in English or in his native language; and kindly thanked his friends present who induced him to attempt the same.
The religion of India was explained at some length by the speaker from a metaphysical standpoint, showing the working of his mind and the thought following, yet his ideas were broad and liberal, when practically applied.
We are able to learn a little more about Swamiji’s stay in Annisquam from a hitherto unpublished letter, which he wrote to Isabelle McKindley on August 20:
Annisquam 20th August ’94
Your very kind letter duly reached me at Annisquam. I am with the Bagleys once more. They are
kind as usual. Professor Wright was not here. But he came day before yesterday and we have very nice time together. Mr. Bradley of Evanston whom you have met at Evanston was here. His sister in law had me sit for a picture several days and had painted me. I had some very fine boating and one evening overturned the boat and had a good drenching clothes and all –
I had very very nice time at Greenacre. They were’ all so earnest and kind people. Fanny Hartley and Mrs. Mills have by this time gone Backhome I suppose. ,
From here I think I will go Backto New York. Or I may go to Boston to Mrs. Ole Bull. Perhaps you have heard of Mr. Ole Bull the great violinist of this country. She is his widow. She is a very spiritual lady. She lives in Cambridge and has a fine big parlour made of woodwork brought all the way from India. She wants me to come over to her any time and use her parlour to lecture. Boston of course is the great field for everything but the Boston people as quickly take hold of anything as give it up. While the New Yorkers are slow but when they get hold of anything they do it with a mortal grip.
I have kept pretty good health all the time and hope to do in the future. I had no occasion yet to draw on my reserve yet I am rolling on pretty fair. And I have given up all money making schemes and will be quite satisfied with a bite and a .shed and work on. i
I believe you are enjoying your summer retreat. Kindly convey my best regards and love to Miss Howe and Mr. Frank Howe.
Perhaps I did not tell you in my last how I slept and lived and preached under the trees and for a few days at least found myself once more in the atmosphere of heaven.
Most probably I will make New York my centre for the next winter – and as soon as I fix on that I will
write to you. I am not yet settled yet in my ideas of remaining in this country any more. I can not settle anything of that sort I must abide my time. May the Lord bless you all for ever and ever is the constant prayer of your ever affectionate
Swamiji evidently had many boat rides during the summer of 1804. In a letter to India he refers to the New Englander’s preoccupation with sailboats. “Here in summer they go to the seaside – I also did the same. They have got almost a mania for boating and yachting. The yacht is a kind of light vessel which everyone, young and old, who has the means, possesses. They set sail in them eery day to the sea, and return home, to eat and drink and dance – while music continues day and night. Pianos render it a botheration to stay indoors!” This picture of life in a New England resort town is accurate, but while the piano music of the gay nineties might at times have become unendurable, Swamiji evidently did not mind his drenching in the sea. He refers to it again in reply to concerned inquiries from the Hale family. To Mary Hale he writes, “I have plenty of gowns already, in fact, more than I can carry with ease. When I had that drenching in Annisquam I had on that beautiful black suit you appreciate so much, and I do not think it can be damaged any way; it also has been penetrated with my deep
meditations on the Absolute….Kindly tell Mother that I do not want any coat now.”
Of this same visit to Annisquam Swamiji’s hostess, Mrs. Bagiev, later wrote in &4etter defending him from his enemies: “… No one can know him without respecting his integrity and excellence of character and his strong religious nature. At Annisquam last summer I had a cottage and we wrote Vivekananda. who was in BosLon, inviting him again to visit us there, which he did, remaining three weeks, not only conferring a favor upon us, but a great pleasure I am sure, to friends who had cottages near us.”
The summer was ovejr. Schools and colleges were opening and people were returning from mountain and seaside resorts to the cities. Swamiji’s second year of lecturing in America began in Boston, where he spent nearly the entire month of September. The little that is known of this Boston visit must at present be pieced together from his published letters, for the Boston papers were curiously silent regarding his lectures. We can only surmise that for the most part they were delivered before private or semiprivate gatherings.
Evidently Swamiji had made arrangements to lecture in Boston during his last week or so in Annisquam, for prior to this there is no intimation of the fact that he intended to go there. In his letter of August 20 to Isabelle McKindley he writes, “From here [Annisquam] I think I will go Backto New York. Or I may go to Boston [Cambridge] to Mrs. Ole Bull.” Actually Swamiji did neither of these things. The next letter we know of was written to Mary Hale on September 13 from the Hotel Bellevue, Beacon Street, Boston. “I have been in this hotel for about a week,” he writes. “I will remain in Boston some time yet.” On September 19 he wrote from the same hotel to Mrs. Ole Bull, who was evidently in New York at the time, “I am at present lecturing in several places in Boston.”
But although the season had commenced and Swamiji was busy lecturing, the desire to write a book, which he had had since early July, was still strong. To his Madrasi disciple, Alasinga, he had written on July 11: “At this time of the year
there is not much lecturing to be done here, so I will devote myself to my pen . . .” But he had found little time for writing during the summer months of 1894, and in September the need to set down his thoughts was unsatisfied. In a letter from Boston to Mary Hale we find a passage which is endearingly characteristic of those who are beset with an urge to write. First, the enchanting, if not altogether essential, paraphernalia must be purchased. “Today this vagabond lama was seized with a desire of going right along scribbling,” Swamiji wrote on September 13, “and so I walked down and entering a store bought all sorts of writing material and a beautiful portfolio which shuts with a clasp and has even a little wooden ink-stand. So far it promises well. Hope it will continue.”
But in Boston, where Swamiji was lecturing, he no doubt knew little of the quiet necessary to writing a book. In spite of his many activities, however, he did find time to compose his long and now famous reply to the Madras Address, which can be found in Volume IV of “The Complete Works.” The reply was in part a highly scholarly dissertation on the origin of the various forms of Hinduism, on its organic unity, theoretical and practical, and on its superiority, and in part a rousing call to the slumbering genius of his motherland. He also at this time sent off many letters to India, as is evidenced by a note written to Isabelle McKindley on September 26:
Hotel Bellevue European Plan,
Boston, 26th Sep 1894
Your letter with the India mail just to hand. A quantity of Newspaper clippings were sent over to me from India. I send them Backfor your perusal and safekeeping.
I am busy writing letters to India last few days. I will remain a few days more in Boston.
With my love and blessings Yours ever affly
In these letters to India, as in his reply to the Madras Address, Swamiji poured forth his energy in an attempt to arouse his motherland, which through centuries of subjugation had lost confidence in its own cujjural and religious life. Knowing that India’s spiritual genius was both the source of her creative strength and her gift to the world, he was deeply concerned with awakening the Hindus to a new pride in and love for their own heritage. “One vision I see clear as life before me:” he wrote, “That the ancient Mother has awakened once more, sitting on Her throne, rejuvenated, more glorious than ever. Proclaim Her to all the world with the voice of peace and benediction.”
But the papers and letters which Swamiji dashed off in the white heat of inspiration were not what he meant by “writing.” “What I want is to get a place where I can sit down and write down my thoughts,” he wrote to Mrs. Bull in his letter of September 19. “I had enough of speaking ; now I want to write. I think I will have to go to New York for it. Mrs. Guernsey was so kind to me and she is ever willing to help me. I think
I will go to her and sit down and write my book… Kindly
write me whether the Guernseys have returned to town or are still in Fishkill.”
Mrs. Bull would, of course, not hear of Swamiji’s finding peace anywhere but at her home in Cambridge, to which, presumably, she would soon return from New York and to which she invited him. On September 26 he replied to her invitation: “I have received both of your kind notes. I cannot express my gratitude for your kindness. I will have to go Backto Melrose on Saturday and remain there till Monday. On Tuesday I will
come over to your place….For that is exactly what I wanted, a quiet place to write. Of course much less space will suffice me than what you have kindly proposed to put at my disposal. I call bundle myself up anywhere and feel quite comfortable.”
Melrose is a town a few miles north of Boston, where Swamiji evidently lectured at least twice – the second time on Sunday, September 30. This lecture was probably his last in the vicinity of Boston in the fall of 1894, for on October 2 he went to Mrs. Ole Bull’s home in Cambridge, where his desire for a quiet place to write was at last fulfilled.
To judge from his letter of September 19, Swamiji already had a deep regard for Mrs. Bull, and she for him. “Dear Mother Sara,” he writes, “I did not forget you at all. You do not think I will be ever as ungrateful as that? You did not give me your address, still I have been getting news about you from Landsberg through Miss Philips.”
That Swamiji addressed Mrs. Bull as “Mother” was by no means a matter of Hindu rhetoric. He undoubtedly had at once felt a profound trust in her judgment and in her large heart – an intuitive trust which was not misplaced and which led him to write later, “Not only from the help you have given me but from jny instinct (or as I call it, inspiration of my Master) I regard you as my mother, and will always abide by any advice you may have for me…It may be noted again that in the large cities of America – Chicago, Boston and New York – Swamiji had special friends who were not only influential but who loved him as a son or brother and revered him as a prophet. It is perhaps safe to say that such people were there by divine providence, for in the life of one so very close to God as Swamiji, there seems to be an almost cosmic design, both broad and detailed. Be that as it may, Mrs. Ole Bull played an important part in Swamiji’s life and from the very first was extremely helpful to his work.
When Swamiji first met Mrs. Bull she was in her early forties and had been a widow for fourteen years. Aside from the fact that she was by nature warm-hearted, courageous, independent and, as Swamiji said, “very spiritual,” her wide travels with her famous violinist husband, her experience with managers, audiences, and all that goes with public life, to say nothing of her close association with an artist, had well equipped her to help Swamiji, to give him not only good advice regarding his work in America but personal sympathy and understanding.
Before Mrs. Bull’s marriage to the Norwegian violinist, Ole Bull, she had been Miss Sara Thorp, the daughter of the Honorable Joseph G. Thorp, a rich lumberman and state senator of Madison, Wisconsin. In her youth, her family had lived in a spacious mansion, the finest house in Madison. Mrs. Thorp, a formidable woman of iron will, reigned as the city’s social leader – “a reign,” it is said, “that for brilliance and unchallenged authority has never since been equalled in the Wisconsin State capital.” “The great house on ‘Yankee Hill,* ” this same account continues, “became the acknowledged social center of the town, and invitations to the Thorp lawn parties, musicales, amateur theatricals, and elaborate formal dinners were frantically sought.” Naturally enougbr-the Thorps entertained visiting celebrities, and it was in the great house on Yankee Hill that the once-married sixty-year-old Ole Bull met and courted Sara Thorp, a girl of barely twenty. In “The Life of Ole Bull” by Mortimer Smith, the young Sara has been described as “black-haired, of a serious, rather melancholy sort of beauty, highly impressionable, passionately fond of music and – thanks to her mother – entirely ignorant of young men of her own age.” She was a highstrung girl, idealistic and sensitive. The story goes that when she was
seventeen she attended with her mother one of Ole Bull’s concerts and then and there made up her mind that she would one day become his wife. She was of the same mind when, three years later, she met him socially.
As for Ole Bull his meeting with Sara was evidently a case of love at first sight. “But,” says his biographer, “this romantic attachment between age and youth might well have come to nothing had it not been for a very remarkable woman, Sara’s mother.” Brushing aside the protests of her husband, Mrs. Thorp encouraged the romance until, in September of 1870, it culminated in marriage. It was a strange alliance; not only was there a forty years difference between husband and wife, but a wide difference in background and temperament. Sara Bull belonged to a highly conventional Midwestern family ; Ole Bull to the unconventional, free society of artists. Yet the couple were in love, and all might have gone well had not Mrs. Thorp, Mr. Thorp, Joseph Thorp, their son, a Mrs. Abbie Shapleigh (Mrs. Thorp’s companion) and her two children kept almost constant tab on the couple both in America and Europe. For several years this entourage lived with them, traveled with them, argued with them and incessantly gave them advice. Explosion continuously threatened until finally, after numerous and unsuccessful attempts to transform the impulsive and extravagant Ole Bull into a docile and respectable son-in-law, Mrs. Thorp came to the conclusion that he was not, after all, a suitable husband for her daughter. She forthwith engineered a separation and bundled Sara and her small daughter, Sara Olca, who had been born in 1871, home to Madison.
But as Sara Bull grew older she became a match for her mother. After two years of pining at home, she one day rebelled against parental authority, left Madison and rejoined her husband in Norway. After this, the Bulls lived a private and quiet life – if the life of a concert violinist may be said to be private and quiet. It was, at least, a life in which the Thorp family no longer interfered, but with which they finally came to terms. Henceforth peace reigned between Sara’s family and Ole Bull. Mrs. Bull took charge of her impractical husband’s affairs, virtually managed his concert tours, borrowed money from her father when necessary, and became, all in all, a mature and efficient wife to this aging, somewhat erratic man, whom she adored, indeed, whom she worshiped.
In the meantime, Mrs. Thorp, bored with Madison, moved her family to Cambridge where, to her delight, her son Joseph married the youngest daughter of the poet Longfellow. It was in Cambridge that the Bulls made their home – in a separate establishment – when they were in America, and it was there that Mrs. Bull continued to live after the death of her husband in 1880. She became, “The Life of Ole Bull” relates, “a well-known figure in Cambridge, and her spacious house on Brattle Street, where she lived until her death in 1911, was a famous gathering place for ‘intellectual* society and for leaders of causes. She presided over her salon with a gentle, unobtrusive, and somewhat melancholy grace. Here she could be found introducing the Swami Vivekananda and his Vedanta philosophy to her cautious and faintly suspicious Cambridge friends, or discussing religion with William James, or playing accompaniments for the aggressive baritone of John Fiske. For two years she conducted in her house what she called ‘the Cambridge Conferences’; here, in a large living room panelled in Indian teakwood and dominated by a bust and innumerable portraits of Ole Bull, one was privileged to listen to the controversial social questions of the day discussed by such figures as Professor James, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Josiah Royce, and Jane Addams. In the audience one could rub shoulders with such varied persons as the patrician Miss Alice Longfellow, Irving Babbitt, Professor Munsterberg, the still active Julia Ward Howe, and even a young woman named Gertrude Stein, then a student at Radcliffe.”
But Mrs. Bull could provide a sanctuary in her Cambridge home as well as a lively salon, and it was here that in October of 1894 she offered Swamiji a place where he could write undisturbed. It is, of course, not unlikely that she persuaded him to give one or two informal talks in her large living room, and very possibly it was during this stay with Mrs. Bull that Swamiji became so intimately acquainted with Dr. William James. (It was perhaps at this time that he demonstrated, as we have been told, the mystery of divine communion for the noted philosopher by plunging, in his presence, into samadhi.) But although Mrs. Bull may have introduced others of her friends to Swamiji she no doubt for the most part gave him an opportunity to rest and to write down his thoughts, for perceptive and sensitive as she was, she must have seen that he was in need of a few days of peace.
On September 21 Swamiji had written t<f Alasinga: “I have not been able to write a line yet for my proposed book. Perhaps I may be able to take it in hand later on. … I hope soon to return to India. I have had enough of this country, and especially as too much work is making me nervous. The giving of too many public lectures and constant hurry have brought on this
nervousness… So you see, I will soon return.” And again on
September 27 he had written: “This nonsense of public life and newspaper blazoning has disgusted me thoroughly. I long to go Backto the Himalayan quiet.”
Yet despite Swamiji’s fatigue he continued, in the last part of 1894, to lecture wherever opportunity presented itself. It would appear, as has been pointed out before, that he was destined, before settling down in one place, to spread his influence throughout America, to scatter his blessing and the potent seeds of spirituality over wide areas, to meet thousands upon thousands of people and to stir not only their minds but the deep recesses of their souls – those depths which none but a prophet of his stature could reach and awaken. Therefore he did not remain long at Mrs. Bull’s home in Cambridge.
As far as can be known, Swamiji stayed with Mrs. Bull for only nine or ten days, for the next news we have of him is of his arrival in Baltimore, Maryland, on the evening of October 12. The reporter of the Baltimore American lost no time in interviewing him, and the following article, replete with various inaccuracies, appeared the next day:
A HIGH PRIEST OF INDIA
Swami Vivekananda Arrives in Baltimore His Views on Religion
Swami Vivekananda, a Brahmin high priest of India, arrived in Baltimore last night, and is the guest of Rev. Waller Vrooman. He came to America over a year ago, to attend the Congress of Religions, at the World’s Fair, in Chicago, and his address before that body made him one of the most popular representatives in the congress. In personal appearance Swami Viveka-nanda is a picturesque character. He is about five and a half feet tall and heavily built, weighing probably 225 pounds. His skin is dark, but it is the shade peculiar to the Asiatic races. His face is round and plump, and his head is crowned with a wealth of jet black, wavy hair, that falls on his forehead and reaches down nearly to his eyebrows. His eyes are as black as his hair, and they are bright and sparkling, and when he smiles he displays a set of almosL perfect pearly teeth. His countenance is both handsome and striking, and in addition to this, he is as good-natured and jolly as it is possible for a man to be. The garb he wore last night was rather of a clerical cut; but he carries with him a costume such as he wears among his people, in India, and it is bright with scarlet and yellow. Though but thirty-three years of age, he is a profound scholar, and can fluently speak seven languages, and can read as many more. His English is beyond criticism.
To an American reporter last night Swami Viveka-nanaa said: “I have been very favorably impressed
with American institutions during my stay in this country. My time has been divided between four cities – Chicago, New York, Boston and Detroit. I never heard of Chicago when in India, but I had frequently heard of Baltimore. The main criticism I have to pass on America is that you have too little religion here. In
India they have too much. I think the world would be better if some of India’s surplus of religion could be sent over here, while it would be to India’s profit if its people could have some of America’s industrial advancement and civilization. I am a believer in all religions.
I think there is truth in my religion; I think there is truth in your religion. It is the same truth in all religions applying itself through various channels to the same end. I think the great need of the world is less law, and more godly men and women.”
The word “Swami” means high priest or cardinal, and indicates Vivekananda’s rank, while the latter is his family name. His family record reaches Back2,000 years. He is a member of the highest caste in India, and is counted an equal of the gods of his people, to whom he is an object of worship. His religion is Hinduism. His address at the Congress of Religions at Chicago last year was a profound production, and made a great impression on all who heard or read it.
Swami Vivekananda, during his stay in America, has been studying American institutions, particularly the American mode of government. He favors the establishment in this country of an international university, where all the religions of the world can be taught, for, he thinks there is no more need of American missionaries going to India than there is of Indian missionaries coming to America.
Swami Vivekananda is a charming conversationalist. He is familiar with the works of all the great writers in a dozen different tongues, and he quotes long selections from Spencer, Darwin, Mill or others of the great philosophers with a fluency that is surprising. Tomorrow evening he will appear on the stage of the Lyceum Theater in conjunction with the three Vrooman brothers, and will deliver an address. He will wear the costume of his native country.
The three Vrooman Brothers were, at the time of Swamiji’s visit to Baltimore, in their early twenties – younger even than
Swamiji himself. Yet the career of each was already varied. The three – Walter, Hiram and Carl – belonged to a family of five energetic boys, all of whom were, among other things, ministers. Three were Congregationalists, one a Baptist and another, Hiram, first a Congregationalist and later a Sweden-borgian.
A story is told of the boyhood of Hiram and an older brother, perhaps Walter, which is illustrative of the Vrooman gift for enterprise. When a boy of twelve, Hiram and his fourteen-year-old brother, being in delicate health, were sent by their parents from their home in Kansas to one of the Western springs, so popular in those days as panaceas for all ills. It appears, however, that Hiram and his brother had small use for the springs, for shortly, having met a pedlar of a remarkable soap guaranteed to remove all stains, the boys, who evidently had money for their cure, bought out his stock, bought also the secret of manufacture, and forthwith proceeded to peddle soap. Starting on an itinerant enterprise, manufacturing the “Lightning Cleaner” and selling it along the road, they worked their way to Denver, Colorado. There, tired of peddling, and finding the Denver Exposition in progress, they invested their earnings in peanuts and opened a peanut stand. The peanut business flourished; Hiram and his brother cleared enough not only to pay all their expenses from the time they had left home, but to send two hundred dollars, a sizable amount in those days, to their parents, who by this time must surely have been at their wits’ end. But the Vrooman boys were not through adventuring. They left Denver and embarked upon a lecture tour, the elder, who was now fifteen, lecturing on phrenology and Hiram, thirteen, acting as advance agent.
The story reads like the true American adventure story, and it could happen, of course, only in nineteenth-century America, when the country was a vast playground and where opportunity was waiting even for small boys. But adventure never seemed to come to an end for the Vrooman brothers. It is true that, after their lecture tour, the two boys returned to Kansas and soberly went to school. Hiram later took a special course at Harvard and then became a newspaper man, working as editor and reporter on-a New York daily. He soon aban* doned this course of action, however, in favor of theological studies and shortly entered the Congregational Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, as a minister. This was not to last long. He began to study the doctrine of the Swedenborgians and in 1893, when he visited Baltimore to officiate temporarily at the Associate Reformed Congregational Church, was invited to occupy the pulpit of the New Jerusalem, or Swedenborgian, Church. He accepted this post and was still holding it when the Vrooman brothers invited Swamiji to Baltimore as their guest. It should be mentioned, however, that in the first part of 1895, at the age of twenty-three, Hiram Vrooman resigned his pastorate at the New Jerusalem Church in order, as he said, to devote his entire time to literary work.
Unless Walter Vrooman was the elder of the pair of adventuresome boys who peddled soap, we know little of his career prior to Swamiji’s visit to Baltimore. It is said, however, that in 1886, when he must have been still in his teens, he made his reputation as a political speaker in Henry George’s campaign for mayor of New York. In 1894 he was on the staff of the Arena Magazine and was also pastor of the people’s Congregation in Baltimore, which held weekly meetings at the Lyceum theater.
Carl Vrooman, the youngest of the brothers, was probably barely in his twenties at the time of Swamiji’s visit and was still studying for the ministry. A bright, boy, he was president of the Intercollegiate Debating Union.
Although the Vrooman brothers seemed to be preoccupied with religion, their interest was primarily centered in politics. The three young men zealously crusaded for the People’s Party, the platform of which included many long-needed reforms such as: “The abolition of ‘child labor’ and the ‘sweating system’ by federal statute”; also, “Government ownership of all monopolies, both natural and unnatural.” The Vrooman brothers’ meetings on “Dynamic Religion” were actually and avowedly political campaigns, dynamic religion being to them identical with progressive political action. It was typical of their enterprising spirit that they invited so unfailing a drawing card to speak with them as Swamiji, the famous and “dynamic” Hindu monk. We do not know at present, however, what induced Swamiji to accept their invitation, nor, for that matter, how the
Vroomans contacted him. Possibly they had managed to meet him in Boston and there lured him to Baltimore with talk of plans for an international university – a project which was dear to Swamiji’s heart. The Vrooman vitality and forthrightness may also have appealed to him, for despite their obsession with political reform, the brothers were, to say the least, spirited.
There was much to be desired, however, in the Vrooman hospitality. The brothers not only put up Swamiji at a hotel, a breach of manners which for one reason or another may have been unavoidable, but they made no advance arrangements for him. Young though they were, the Vrooman brothers were not without experience and must have been well aware that racial prejudice existed in Baltimore ; they must also have been aware that their guest, whose skin was dark, would be treated with distrust and rudeness by undiscriminating hotel clerks. Yet, on Swamiji’s arrival in Baltimore, the Reverend Walter Vrooman conducted him to one third-rate hotel after another, only to have him turned away. Of this incident Swamiji wrote to Mrs. Bull: “You need not be sorry on account of the ill-treatment I received at the hands of a low class hotel-keeper at Baltimore. It was the fault of the Vrooman Brothers. Why should they take me to a low hotel ?”
At length, the Reverend Walter Vrooman took Swamiji to the Hotel Rennert, the most fashionable hotel in Baltimore, and there, after procuring a room for him, evidently left him to his own devices. The next we know, a reporter from the Sunday Herald found Swamiji seated with majestic calm in the hotel lobby. It will be seen from the following article, which appeared in the Sunday Herald of October 14, 1894, that despite their clumsiness as hosts and despite the fact that Hiram Vrooman was under the impression that Swamiji was a Buddhist priest, the brothers held their guest in high regard:
A WISE MAN AMONG US
Visit of a Distinguished Hindoo Priest to This City
He is a Guest of the Vrooman Brothers and Is Interested in the Establishment of an International University of Religions – His Gorgeous Garb.
Seated in the main lobby of the Hotel Rennert yesterday afternoon was a personage clad in maroon dressing-gown, bound with a red sash. His face was dark, and mystically dignified, its lineaments expressive at once of both intellectuality and sentiment. His complexion was a deep olive, his eyes large, black and luminous, his hair black as midnight, his brow a study for the physiognomist. Taken all in all, his head was such a one as would delight the believer in phrenology.
The man was Swani Vivecananda, the Brahmin high priest, whose arrival has created such a furore in local religious circles. He was the observed of all observers. In his hand he held a copy of a leading magazine, which he was perusing with interest. Mr. Vivecananda conversed with a SUNDAY HERALD reporter, speaking English with ease and with an accent similar to that of an educated Italian. He displayed the greatest familiarity with the institutions of this country, religious, political and social.
Mr. Vivecananda came to Baltimore at the invitation of the Vrooman brothers, Hiram, Carl and Walter, and while in this city will be their guest. Rev. Hiram Vrooman was seen at his residence, 1122 North Calvert Street, yesterday, and talked freely in reference to the visit of the distinguished guest.
“Mr. Vivecananda,” he said, “is one of the most intelligent men I have ever met. He came to this city at our invitation, and while here will confer with us in reference to the founding of the international university, which it is proposed to establish as an outcome of the World’s Congress of Religions, which was such an interesting feature of the World’s Fair. This university is one of Mr. Vivecananda’s pet ideas, and has the full sympathy of myself and my brothers, and also a number of gentlemen of wealth and position, including several religions. Among its promoters are members of the Roman Catholic and Hebrew religions. The idea of the university is education in general religion.
“When founded its head will be one of the most distinguished educators in Lhis country, and its faculty will include professors selected from all religions. Mr. Vivecananda was sent to this country by the ecclesiastics of the Buddhist religion in India to study our religious and political systems. His expenses are paid by the ecclesiastical authorities of the Buddhist faith. He was its representative at the World’s Congress. One of Mr. Vivecananda’s ideas in the establishing of the university is that it may serve to educate a superior kind of missionary for work in India. While he is steadfast to his own religious belief, he wishes that the present system of sending ignorant men as missionaries to India may be discontinued and men sent there who can teach the Christian religion from an elevated standpoint. In this wish he is animated only by a desire for the good of general religion.
“He is one of the widest-informed men on religious topics I ever knew. It may be of interest to Roman Catholics to know that he was the first man to translate the works of Thomas a’Kempis, the great theologian of their faith, the favorite philosopher of Pope Leo, into the Sanscrit tongue. He carries a volume of the works of St. ‘Thomas about with him constantly.
“Mr. Vivecananda told me that his father was a great believer in the Lord Jesus, as he called Him, and that when a boy he had read in the Gospel of St. John the thrilling description of the crucifixion of the Savior and wept over it. He will remain in this city for several weeks. To-morrow evening he will deliver a brief
address at our meeting at the Lyceum, and on Sunday week will speak at length at our second meeting on the university plan.
“I can say relative to the university that it is to be located near Boston, and that a meeting to give it definite shape will be held soon. Mr. Vivecananda will not leave this country until it is established. He does not receive money from any one or cat meat, both being against the laws governing this caste. Before becoming a priest he had studied English law in India.*’
As has been said, the Vrooman brothers had probably used the project of the international university, or Temple Universal, to lure Swamiji to Baltimore, and no doubt they had done so in good faith. But as far as can be learned from the newspaper reports, which are fairly complete, the Sunday meetings were not remotely concerned with “the university plan.” On Sunday, October 14, Swamiji spoke, or as it was said, assisted the brothers, at the first of these meetings, which was reported by both the Baltimore American and the Sun of October 15 in articles that read, respectively, as follows:
LESS DOCTRINE, MORE BREAD
The Words of the High Priest of India A Meeting at the Lyceum
The Lyceum Theater was crowded last night at the first of a series of meetings by the Vrooman Brothers. The subject discussed was “Dynamic Religion.” The story of David and Goliath was discussed by Rev. Hiram Vrooman, Mr. Carl Vrooman and Rev. Walter Vrooman. In the course of his remarks, Rev. Hiram Vrooman said the most popular preachers today were generally those who manifest the greatest ingenuity in arranging the lights in the heavens without disturbing the darkness that is gathered over the church pews and over the city. “We are,” said he, “in a crisis of the world’s history.
If shot and shell were breaking the air and brass bands playing war marches, I would not be a particle more interested in what daily transpires than I am now in these times of apparent peace, when the great movements are developing which are to bless or curse the millions of our race who are yet to live.”
Mr. Carl Vrooman followed. In the course of his remarks, he said: “What we need is less of that cowardice which calls itself humility, and less of that trust which lolls in luxurious piety, while Lazarus and his million brothers are starving and sinning within easy reach, trusting that in his own good time and way God will provide.”
Rev. Walter Vrooman said: “Dynamic religion
means religion in motion, and is opposed to that religion at rest which is locked up in the hundreds of huge stone buildings scattered throughout our cities, during the whole week, with the exception of a couple of hours, during which time the people are allowed to go in and nibble at it as though it had a sort of medicinal effect in easing the pains caused by conscience.”
Swami Vivekananda, the high priest from India, was the last speaker. He spoke briefly, and was listened to with marked attention. His English and his mode of delivery were excellent. There is a foreign accent to his syllables, but not enough to prevent him from being plainly understood. He was dressed in the costume of his native country, which was decidedly picturesque. He said he could speak but briefly after the oratory that had preceded him*, but he could add his endorsement to all that had been said. He had traveled a great deal,, and preached to all kinds of people. He had found that the particular kind of doctrine preached made little difference. What is wanted is practical sort of work. If such ideas could not be carried out, he would lose his faith in humanity. The cry all over the world is “less doctrine and more bread.” He thought the sending’ of missionaries to India all right; he had no objections to offer, but he thought it would be better to send fewer men and more money. So far as India was concerned, she had religious doctrine to spare. Living up to the doctrines was needed more than more doctrines. The people of India, as well as the people all over the world, had been taught to pray, but prayer with the lips was not enough ; people should pray with their hearts. “A few people in the world,” he said, “really try to do good. Others look on and applaud, and think that they themselves have done great good. Life is love, and when a man ceases to do good to others, he is dead spiritually.” On Sunday evening next Swami Vivekananda will make the address of the evening at the Lyceum.
THE VROOMAN BROTHERS
They Expound Religion of Action at the Lvceum Theatre.
Assisted by Swami Vivekananda
The Last Mentioned is a Hindoo High Priest Who Is Traveling through the United States – Commending The Action of Dr. Parkhurst in New York.
Dynamic religion, or religion of action, was expounded in addresses last night at the Lyceum Theatre by Rev. Hiram Vrooman, Rev. Walter Vrooman and Mr. Carl Vrooman.
The three are brothers. Rev. Hiram Vrooman is pastor of New Jerusalem Church, Baltimore. Rev. Walter Vrooman is a member of the Arena Magazine staff. Mr. Carl Vrooman is president of the Intercollegiate Debating Union, and was last year winner in the debate for the championship between Harvard and Yale .Universities.
Swami Vivekananda, a Hindoo high priest, added his testimony to that of the other speakers in urging the necessity of more practice and less preaching in overcoming evil.
The theatre was crowded with an audience which showed appreciation of the address and evident sympathy with their object by earnest attention and frequent applause.
Vivekananda was one of the delegates to the World’s Congress of Religions last year at Chicago. He has since been traveling about the United States, studying American customs and institutions. He wears a costume of a bright red cloak and yellow turban, with a long streamer hanging down his back. He speaks fluently in English.
On account of his bronze skin Vivekananda had a little difficulty securing hotel accommodations when he arrived in Baltimore on Saturday. Rev. Walter Vrooman took him to four hotels before he was accepted as a guest at the Rennert.
Vivekananda sat on the stage last night with imperturbable stolidity until it came his turn to speak. Then his manner changed and he spoke with force and feeling. He followed the Vrooman brothers and said there was little to add to what had been said save his testimony as a “man from the Antipodes.”
“We have doctrines enough,” he continued. “What we want now is practical work as presented in these speeches. When asked about the missionaries sent to India I reply all right. But we want money more and men less. India has bushels full of doctrines and to spare. What is wanted is the means to carry them out.
“Prayer may be done in different ways. Prayer with the hands is yet higher than prayer with the lips and is more saving.
“All religions teach us to do good for our brothers. Doing good is nothing extraordinary – it is the only way to live. Everything in nature tends to expansion for life and contraction for death. It is the same in religion.
Do good by helping others without ulterior motives.The moment this ceases contraction and death follow.
Goliath in Baltimore.
Rev. Hiram Vrooman opened the meeting by reading the story of David and Goliath.
“The same identical armies that are described in this story,” he said, “are encamped now upon the hills of Baltimore. Every day Goliath comes out of the Philistine camp and proclaims his mockeries against the altruistic teachings of Jesus. Twenty-one hundred saloons, with their train of ruined homes and blasted lives, produce the spectacle of his grinning face, and ill-gotten gold, the product of fraud, is his armour… “
The Reverend Hiram Vrooman, and, later, Walter and Carl Vrooman, went on in this vein at some length. And although Swamiji listened with “imperturbable stolidity,” I do not think the present readers need be burdened with the Vrooman orations regarding the corruption in Baltimore politics in 1894.
Swamiji remained in Baltimore until the following Sunday, when he again lectured with the Vrooman brothers. There is the possibility that during this time he was invited to stay at the home of some newly acquired Baltimore friend, and the certainty that, despite the Vrooman brothers, he was well enter tained ; for in his letter of October 27 to Mrs. Bull he assured her that “the American women as everywhere came to ni) rescue, and I had very good time.” (Probably Mrs. Patterson, wife of the American Consul-General in Calcutta in 1898, who accom panied Swamiji during his travels in Kashmir, was one of these American women.)
The second meeting of the Vrooman brothers was held on Sunday, October 21, at which time Swamiji was the main speaker. It was natural, in view of the brothers’ preoccupation with “Goliath,” that he should speak of Buddha, who discovered the very root of all evil, all suffering. In the following report from the Morning Herald of October 22, I have omitted the talks of the Vroomans. Suffice it to say that they were long, verbose, and again concerned with political immorality.
BUDDHA’S HIGH PRIEST
He Speaks to 3,000 People at the Lyceum.
Second of the Vrooman Brothers’ Meetings in the Interest Of “Dynamic Religion” – The Judiciary and How It Should be Maintained.
An audience which filled the Lyceum Theatre from pit to dome assembled last night at the second of the series of meetings held by the Vrooman Brothers in the interest of “Dynamic Religion.” Fully 3,000 persons were present.
Half of the assembly were ladies. The interest was maintained throughout, and in several instances the remarks of the speakers were greeted with applause. Addresses were made by the Rev. Hiram Vrooman, Rev. Walter Vrooman and Rev. Swarri Vivekananda, the Brahmin High Priest now visiting this city. The speakers of the evening were seated on the stage, the Rev. Vivekananda being an object of particular interest to all. [The Vroomans* expectations of Swamiji’s drawing power were evidently fulfilled.]
He wore a yellow turban and a red robe tied in at the waste [sic] with a sash of the same color, which added to the Oriental cast of his features and invested him with a peculiar interest. His personality seemed to be the feature of jjxe evening. His address was delivered in an easy, unembarrassed manner, his diction being perfect and his accent similar to that of a cultured member of the Latin race familiar with the English language. He said in part:
The High Priest Speaks.
“Buddha began to found the religion of India 600 years before the birth of Christ. He found the religion
of India at that time mainly engaged in eternal
discussions upon’ the nature of the human soul. There was no remedy according to the ideas then prevailing for the cure of religious ills but sacrifices of animals, sacrificial altars and similar methods.
“In the midst of this system a priest was born who was a member of one of the leading families who was the founder of Buddhism. His was, in the first place, not the founding of a new religion, but a movement of reformation. He believed in the good of all. His religion, as formulated by him, consisted of the discovery of three things: First, ‘There is an evil’ ; second, ‘WhaT
is the cause of this evil ?’ This he ascribed to the desires of men to be superior to others, an evil that could be cured by unselfishness. “Third, ‘This evil is curable by becoming unselfish.Force, he concluded, could not cure it; dirt cannot wash dirt; hate cannot cure hate.
“This was the basis of his religion. So long as society tries to cure human selfishness by laws and institutions whose aim is to force others to do good to their neighbors, nothing can be done. The remedy is not to place trick against (rick and force against force. The only remedy is in making unselfish men and women. You may enact laws to cure present evils, but they will be of no avail.
“Buddha found in India too much talking about God and His essence and too little work. lie always insisted upon this fundamental truth, that we are to be pure and holy, and that we are to help others to be holy also. He believed that man must go to work and help others ; find his soul in others ; find his life in others. He believed that in the conjunction [sic] of doing good to others is the only good we do ourselves. He believed that there was always in the world too much theory and too little practice. A dozen Buddhas in India at the present time would do good, and one Buddha in this country would also be beneficial.
“When there is too much doctrine, too much belief in my father’s religion, too much rational superstition,
a change is needed. Such doctrine produces evil, and a reformation is necessary”
At the conclusion of Mr. Vivekananda’s address there was a hearty burst of applause.
The Baltimore American of October 22 also reported Swamiji’s talk, giving no space to those of the Vroomans:
THE RELIGION OF BUDDHA
Swami Vivekananda’s Address at the Lyceum Theater.
The Lyceum Theater was crowded to the doors last night at the second meeting of the series conducted by the Vrooman brothers on “Dynamic Religion.” Swami Vivekananda, of India, made the principal address. He spoke on the Buddhist religion, and told of the evils which existed among the people of India at the time of the birth of Buddha. The social inequalities in India, he said, were at that period a thousand times greater than anywhere else in the world. “Six hundred years before Christ,” he continued, “the priesthood of India exercised great influence over the minds of the people, and between the upper and nether millstone of intellectuality and learning the people were ground. Buddhism, which is the religion of more than two-thirds of the human family, was not founded as an entirely new religion, but father as a reformation which carried off the corruption of the times. Buddha seems to have been the only prophet who did everything for others and absolutely nothing for himself. He gave up his home and all the enjoyments of life to spend his days in search of the medicine for the terrible disease of human misery. In an age when men and priests were discussing the essence of the deity, he discovered what people had overlooked, that misery existed. The cause of evil is our desire to be superior to others and our
selfishness. The moment that the world becomes unselfish all evil will vanish. So long as society tries to cure evil by laws and institutions, evil will not be cured. The world has tried this method ineffectually for thousands of years. Force against force never cures, and the only cure for evil is unselfishness. We need to teach people to obey the laws rather than to make more laws. Buddhism was the first missionary religion of the world, but it was one of the teachings of Buddhism not to antagonize any other religion. Sects weaken their power for good by making war on each other.”
Revs. Hiram and Walter Vrooman also spoke.
On October 22 or 23 Swamiji left Baltimore for Washington, where he stayed as the guest of Mrs. Enoch Totten, who was, as he wrote to Mrs. Bull, “an influential lady here and a metaphysician. …” Mrs. Totten, as will be seen shortly, was a niece of a woman who was a friend of the Hales, who had helped Swamiji in his work and of whom he was very fond. In regard to his Washington visit we are fortunate enough to be in possession of a heretofore unpublished letter written by him to Isabelle McKindlcy and postmarked October 26:
c/o Mrs. E. Totten
1708 W I Street
Excuse my long silence but I have been regularly writing to mother church. I am sure you are all enjoying this nice cool weather. I am enjoying Baltimore and Washington very much. I will go hence to Philadelphia. I thought Miss Mary was in Philadelphia and so I wanted her address. But as she is in some other place near Philadelphia I do not want to give her the trouble to come up to see me as mother church says.
The lady with whom I am staying is Mrs. Totten a niece o£ Miss Howe. I will be her guest more than a week yet so you may write to me to her care.
I intend going over to England this winter somewhere in January or February. A lady from London with whom one of my friends is staying has sent an invitation to me to go over as her guest and from India they are urging me every day to come back.
How did you like Pi too in the cartoon? Do not show it to anybody. It is too bad of our people to caricature Pitoo that way.
I long ever so much to hear from you but take a little more care to make your letter just a bit more distinct. Do not be angry for the suggestion.
Your ever loving brother Vivekananda
Although Swamiji intended, as he said, to leave America in January or February of 1895, it is well known that he did not do so. lie himself was aware that his plans made in the fall of 1894 were only tentative. When requested by his disciple, Alasinga, to send an itinerary of his tours and to outline the substance of his lectures, he replied in a letter of October 27: “I am doing here exactly what I used to do in India. Always depending on the Lord and making no plans ahead”
In answer to this letter from Washington, Swamiji’s Madrasi disciples wrote on November 29 a joint reply, the following excerpts from which show their deep and touching love for their absent Guru. G. G. Narasimhacharya, of whom Swamiji once wrote, “G. G/s nature is of the emotional type,” contributed the first section, Alasinga the second, and Kidi the third:
29th Nov – ’94
Your last letter from Washington to hand. ,Your Baltimore tour we .hope will be more effective to the satisfaction of Rev Mr Vrooman. Some of the hostels
might have been a little cold at the beginning but we hope that it is all for good ; but we believe Baltimore will appreciate you better.
Your last letter seemed to us not to have been written in your usual mood. There is more of exhaustion visible in it. So far as we are concerned we do not very much complain about your long stay in America for we sincerely feel that that land has afforded you a large and suitable field for the message of the Lord. It was there that all the priests of different religions heard first the message of the Lord, it was there the message was appreciated and reverenced.
You teach us to depend upon nobody, to have faith in ourselves, bui it does not prohibit our loving you who first taught us the potency of love, by loving us with the true spiritual love, and thus widening our mind. Nothing can be harsh from you, nor anything too much from you. Hitherto the only bond that knit a few of us together was that of the material gravitation, of the flesh, but now we feel the existence of another elastic chord which is capable of binding together the whole universe within its sweet arid exhilarating grip and which is only hidden for all external appearance. To some of us at least, it is Vivekananda. You do not care for anything of the world. You are now in America, you know the Americans and >oii love them, but we are still of the world, we know not anything of the outside world and so we might in our over-anxiety for von write or do something nonsensical ; but the only way in which we console ourselves is by thinking as Kidi would put it, “Whatever is, is right.”
In spite of all our efforts and in spile of all that we imagine we can we are at times led to feel that we are the blind in a forest, an empty vessel in a stormy sea, a kite without the flying string. And so we appeal to you now and then. No! We can not go anywhere else even though you spurn us away – We cannot but stick to you like bur. Do you not love us – Are we not still ignorant children, in need of a guide? How can we rest till we
see the Lord? I am afraid I am growing stupid and troublesome.
I already alluded in our last letters to you that everything that you do there rebounds to India with a greater force. Everybody here now feels Religion in the air. Some of the missionaries here the friends of the degraded Heathen just now seem to have risen from their dream, and feel the atmosphere insalubrious and after wisely tracing everything home to you, have begun to hurl their lances at you from here across the seas. Alasinga sent you by the last a review of an article by a missionary one Hudson in the Xian College magazine.
The same votary of Christ has launched another letter in the Calcutta “Statesman,” which purports to say that the appreciation of Vivekananda by the Americans was chielly due to his flowing robe and orange turban. The Editor of the “Madras Times,” a European, has reviewed it in an editorial which is herewith sent.
The sashtanga pranamas of all our Madras friends to Swamiji.
Very affectionately ever Swamiji G. G. Narasimhacharya
Being too deeply immersed in college work I allowed myself the privilege of not writing my lengthy letter this week for which I have no doubt you will excuse me as it has been much better done this week by G. G. However much we may strive to believe that in the present Religious Revival we have had a hand we find Lhat the conviction won’t grow in us. We have done absolutely nothing. The credit is all due to the spiritual (ire that is within you – You want us to move on. Much as we feel for the very exhaustive work you have been doing we feel we are helpless to do anything to relieve you even for a time. Your return to India will serve a double advantage. It will perhaps enable you to take rest as well as continue your work in your mother-country. I* send you herewith a leader that
appeared in a European Daily here reviewing a missionary’s criticism on your exposition of Hinduism referred to by G. G. Please don’t fail to inform us before you leave America for England, and give directions to our letters being directed to you in England. Time forbids me from writing more. Dr., Kidi and all other friends send their pranams to you.
Very attly yours M C Alasinga
I am sorry to inform you that there is a rumour here that Bhattacharji has been transferred to Calcutta.
The gap in Madras society cannot at all be filled up. Perhaps he has done his work in Madras – that of introducing you to Madras.
Accept my adoration of your love.
Swamiji had not intended to lecture in Washington until a week after his arrival, but on the invitation of the pastor of the People’s Church, he spoke twice on Sunday, October 28, and on the same day was interviewed by a reporter from the Washington Post, which paper published the following article on Monday, October 29:
ONLY A HINDOO MONK Vivekananda Believes Not in the Tricks of the Yogis.
A Hindoo who is a member of no religious seel, who claims no knowledge or powers of occultism, who is not a believer in the miracles of the yogis, who never saw the Dcliali [sic] Lama, and who docs not think any more of him or of the other wonder workers of India than he does of the Christian missionaries who are working on the outskirts of the masses there, but who simply
announces himself as a religious student and a teacher to rhc world at large, is certainly something of a rarity.
This Hindoo monk, or “swami,” is Mr. Vivekananda, now the guest of Col. Enoch Totten, of this city. Mr. Kananda is booked to lecture twice in Washington within the next week and a half, but he spoke twice yesterday without special announcement, before the congregation of the People’s Church in the Typographical Temple. He attended the parliament of religions in Chicago during the World’s Fair, and is now touring the country, lecturing and preaching in various cities. Though a member of the parliament of religions, Mr. Kananda claims no sect, calling himself simply a Hindoo, which term he uses to indicate both race and religion. His position regarding the religion of his country would be about that of a Unitarian in this country but for the fact that the Brama Sumage [Brahmo Samaj] claim the title of Hindoo Unitarians, leaving Mr. Kananda a free lance, outside the very outer wall.
All Religions Are Good.
Mr. Kananda spoke yesterday at the People’s Church on the invitation of Dr. Kent, pastor of the church. His talk in the morning was a regular sermon, dealing entirely with the spiritual side of religion, and presenting the, to orthodox sects, rather original proposition that there is good in the foundation of every religion, that all«4E£ligions, like languages, are descended from a common stock, and that each is good in its corporal and spiritual aspects so long as it is kept free from dogma and fossilism. The address in the afternoon was more in the form of a lecture on the Aryan race, and traced the descent of the various allied nationalities by their language, religion and customs from the common Sanskrit stock.
After the meeting, to a Post reporter Mr. Kananda -said: “I claim no affiliation with any religious sect, but occupy the position of an observer, and so far as I may, of a teacher to mankind. All religion to me is good. About the higher mysteries of life and existence I can -do no more than speculate, as others do. Reincarnation seems to me to be the nearest to a logical explanation for many things with which we are confronted in the realm of religion. But I do not advance it as a doctrine. It is no more than a theory at best, and is not susceptible of proof except by personal experience, and that proof is good only for the man who has it. Your experience is nothing to me, nor mine to you. I am not a believer in miracles – they are repugnant to me in matters of religion. You might bring the world tumbling down about my ears, but that would be no proof to me that there was a God, or that you worked by his agency, if there was one.
He Believes It Blindly.
“I must, however, believe in a past and a hereafter as necessary to the existence of the present. And if we go on from here, we must go in other forms, and so comes my belief in reincarnation. But I can prove nothing, and any one is welcome to deprive ine of the theory of reincarnation provided they will show me something better to replace it. Only up to the present I have found nothing that offers so satisfactory ar explanation to me.”
Mr. Kananda is a native of Calcutta, and a graduate of the government university there. He speaks English like a native, having received his university training in that tongue. He has had good opportunity to observe the contact between the natives and the English, and it would disappoint a foreign missionary worker to hear him speak in very unconcerned style of the attempts to convert the natives. In this connection he was asked what effect the Western teaching was having on the thought of the Orient.
“Of course” he said, “no thought of any sort can
come into a country without having its effect, but the effect of Christian teaching on Oriental thought is, if it exists, so small as to be imperceptible. The Western doctrines have made about as much impression there as have the Eastern doctrines here, perhaps not so much. That is, among the higher thinkers of the country. The effect of the missionary work among, the masses is imperceptible. When converts are made they of course drop at once out of the native sects, but the mass of the population is so great that the converts of the missionaries have very little effect that can be seen”
The Yogis Are Jugglers.
When asked whether he knew anything of the alleged miraculous performances of the yogis and adepts Mr. Kananda replied that he was not interested in miracles, and that while there were of course a great many clever jugglers in the country, their performances were tricks. Mr. Kananda said that he had seen the mango trick but once, and then by a fakir on a small scale. He held the same view about the alleged attainments of the lamas. “There is a great lack of trained, scientific, and unprejudiced observers in all accounts of these phenomena” said he, “so that it is hard to select the false from the true”
Mr. Kananda will remain in Washington till Thursday, when he lectures at Metzerott Hall on “Reincarnation” and after a short visit to New York will return to speak on “Gods of all nations” on the following Tuesday.
The last paragraph of the above article is misleading, for Swamiji did not make a short visit to New York after his lecture in Washington ; rather, as we can deduce from a published letter which he wrote to Mary Hale, his plan was to lecture in Baltimore on November 2 and 5, return to Washington on November 6, and then go to Philadelphia for a few days to see
Professor Wright, who was spending the winter in that city. According to notices in the Baltimore papers, Swamiji’s lectures of November 2 and 5 were to be, respectively, MIndia and Its Religion” and “India and Its People.” Both were to be given for the benefit of “the International University.”
The first of these lectures Swamiji gave ; but it was his last in Baltimore. Suddenly, and for reasons that are at present unknown, his plans changed, and he returned to New York. This we learn from the Vroornan brothers. ”It was announced,” a sentence reads in a report of their meeting of November 4 at the Lyceum Theatre, “that Rev. Swami Vivekananda, the India High Priest, had been called suddenly to New York, and would not lecture in the Concert Hall, Academy of Music, tonight.” Thus, two or three days before planned, Swamiji’s visit to Baltimore and Washington came to an end.
It can be mentioned, however, that while he was lecturing in those cities, Christian missionary societies throughout the country were holding their annual meetings. “The reports of most of the conferences thus far heard from,” writes the Methodist Protestant of October 10, “show a decided falling off in receipts for Foreign Missions.” In view of this disconcerting fact and in view of Swamiji’s presence, it is not surprising that in both Baltimore and Washington much stress was laid by the missionaries upon their achievement in India. As reported in the papers, their meetings seemed concerned with little else. In one news item the sacred city of Muttra and its surrounding towns were said to have been entirely converted to Christianity. Another stated: “18 Brahmins, or high caste Indians [have] accepted Christianity, [which fact] effectively contradicts the statement published on Brahministic authority, that no Brahmin had ever been converted to Christianity.” The Baltimore Sun of October 17 ran an article which was headlined: “The Christian Religion – President Bonney Says That The Parliament of Religions Will Make it Supreme.” Was Bonney, the president of the Parliament, whom Swamiji had so admired, now regretting his dream of religious fraternity ? It would appear so. At any rate, it is certain that the outcome of the Parliament was, to say the least, an unexpected one, and it is’equally certain that the cause of the upset was clear to everyone. Indeed, wherever Swamiji went there was a background of muttering, audible behind the applause and punctuated from time to time by shrill cries – as in Detroit, and again, as will be seen later, in Brooklyn.
“I shall be in Philadelphia a few days only to see Prof-Wright,” Swamiji wrote to Mary Hale from Washington, “and then I go to New York and run for a little while between New York and Boston, and then go to Chicago via Detroit; and then ‘whist’ – as Senator Palmer says to England.” Since Swamiji was called suddenly to New York, it is not likely that he stopped by in Philadelphia to visit Professor Wright. Nor do we know of his whereabouts during most of November. We can only assume that, as he says, he ran for a little while between New York and Boston and also visited Chicago via Detroit.
It is probable, however, that he spent a good part of November in New York City, and it was, in any case, during this month that he organized a society there. On November 30 he wrote to Alasinga: “I have already established a society in New York. The vice-president of the society will soon write to you. Please start correspondence with them as soon as you can. I hope I shall be able to start such societies in several other places.” Although we do not know at present either the name or the nature of this society, it was very likely formed with a mixed purpose. As early as July 11 Swamiji had written to Alasinga, “When the cold weather comes and people return to their homes, I shall begin lecturing again, and at the same time organize societies.” The purpose of the societies Swamiji had in mind at that time was no doubt as much financial as philosophical and religious, for we find him writing on August 31 to the same disciple: “I have friends here who take care of all my monetary concerns. … It will be a wonderful relief to me to get rid of horrid money affairs. So the sooner you organize yourselves and you be ready as secretary and treasurer to enter into direct communication with my friends and sympathizers here, the better for you and me.” The New York society which Swamiji formed in November was no doubt organized partly in pursuance of this plan. But, as will be seen in a later chapter, toward the erd of 1894 he was also becoming keenly aware of America’s need for the religion of India; thus the society was undoubtedly concerned also with the religious and philosophical aspects of his work.
December 5 finds Swamiji once again at Mrs. Bull’s home in Cambridge, where he stayed until December 28. These three Cambridge weeks were important ones in his work in America, for during them he held large classes every morning in Mrs. Bull’s ample parlor. A bulletin announcing his Brooklyn lectures, which will be reproduced later, commented upon these classes as follows:
One who has attended the Cambridge Classes of the SWAMI VIVEKANANDA, writes: “He has helped many students (in Harvard University) in the solution of philosophical problems in which they had become involved in their course of study.”
The Cambridge Classes were, in a sense, a prelude to what were, perhaps, the greatest intellectual honors paid to Swamiji in America – that of being invited to speak before the Graduate Philosophical Society of Harvard University on March 25, 1896, and, after his talk there on “T he Vedanta Philosophy,” of being offered the chair in Eastern Philosophy – a position which he declined.
A little more information regarding Swamiji’s activities in Cambridge in December, 1894, comes from a published letter he wrote to Mary Hale, who was at the time in Boston and who was apparently reluctant to meet Swamiji’s Cambridge friends. “I have a class every morning here on Vedanta and other topics…he writes. “I would have run into town to see you before this, had I time. I am kept pretty busy the whole day. Then there is the fear of not meeting you. If you have time you may write and I shall snatch the first opportunity to see you. My time of course is always in the afternoon; so long I shall be here, that is until the 27th or 28th of this month, I will have to be very busy in the morning till 12 or 1.”
Again he writes: “I received your letter just now. If it is not against the rules of your society, why do you not come to see Mrs. Ole Bull, Miss Farmer and Mrs. Adams the physical culturist from Chicago ? Any day you will find them there.”
But although Mrs. Bull personally sent Mary Hale an invitation to visit her, Mary Hale remained aloof. It was not until March of 1895 that these two close friends of Swamiji met.
One of Swamiji’s lectures in Cambridge particularly impressed the women to whom he spoke. As it is told in “The Life” Swamiji delivered at the request of Mrs. Bull a lecture on “The Ideals of Indian Women” He dwelt on the nobility and beauty of the Hindu women and on the high regard in which they, as mothers, were held. At the end he saluted his own mother to whose unselfish love and purity he owed, he said, all that he had been able to accomplish in this world. This picture of Hindu women – so different from that painted by the missionaries and others – deeply stirred the women of Cambridge and Boston. Unknown to Swamiji they sent to his mother a picture of the Virgin Mary and Child accompanied by a letter of profound salutations and respect. Remembering how keenly Swamiji felt for his mother, this tribute, of all his triumphs, perhaps gave him, when he heard of it, the deepest personal joy.
In a letter to Mary Hale written on Friday, December 21, Swamiji says, “I am going away next Tuesday [Christmas Day] to New York.” It is possible that he meant “Thursday” but if he had indeed planned to travel on Christmas Day, he was probably persuaded to postpone his trip until the twenty-eighth, for it was on that date that he arrived in New York to keep an appointment with the officers of the Brooklyn Ethical Association.