IN response to your wish that I should write a few words recalling early memories of my friendship with and admiration for Swami Vivekananda, I find to my regret that they have grown faint after the lapse of nearly forty years.
Perhaps it is as it should be: The memories have become absorbed into his teaching, and they live as the inspiration of my deepest thoughts and are hardly to be separated from the undercurrent of my daily life. The main impression left on me is that I had been in touch with a truth that was so large and so gründlich that it contained in itself all that I had previously believed. It became a ground pattern, or a mosaic, capable of constant adjustment to fit the needs of my growing thought.
Let me quote some of those sayings of the Master that have molded my character in the most positive way under the stress of joy and sorrow, of anxiety and illness, and of the many perplexities that invariably accompany us when we start the way.
I must put first that they are a key to all the rest. Without it, I can confidently affirm, there can be no real inner growth or progress of the soul in its search for Peace and for Reality.
The key lies in daily meditation. The Master's words on this subject can never be forgotten. I am well aware that of late years it has been recognized as the pearl of great price in almost all spiritual enlightenment, but when I first heard the Swami's lessons on it, it was new to me. The monkey mind, the charioteer who controls the horses (i.e. the senses), the silence of the Inner Self, the necessity of practice, the study of the teaching which teaches liberation of the Self, discrimination between the Real and the unreal, are thoughts and phrases that will at once recall the Swami to his disciples. Other words of practical wisdom, as I remember them in my own inadequate words are:
(1) Grow up within the fold of your own particular church, but do not die in it. Let it gradually lead you into fresh pastures.
(2) As scaffolding is an indispensable factor in material building, so is it in spiritual attainment. Do not destroy it either for yourself or for others (the Gospel says, "Let both grow until the harvest"), but wait for the inevitable moment of its automatic destruction.
(3) Never debase your ethical standard by calling wrong right. If you know that an act of yours is wrong, do it if you wish, but do not call it right for that is a fatal self-deception.
(4) Say to yourself when you repent of some small action: "I am glad I did that wrong, for now I see and I shall never do it again."
(5) Unselfish work for other people must be regarded as beneficial to the doer, for it is the doer that gains in his character.
(6) Do not identify your Self with any mental state. Perhaps this injunction is specially fundamental in sorrow or pity for the Self. Nothing leads so directly to wise judgement as holding the Real Self free from the unreal Self.
(7) The greatest heresy is separation.
(8) Unity is the Goal of Religion and of Science.
(9) I am That.
I must add to these great sayings the stories told by the Swami — inimitable stories which illustrated the points in his teaching. They became like the parables in the Bible — marvellous "lamps of light unto our feet."
Disciples of the Swami will remember the story of the lion brought up as a sheep but awakening afterwards to its true nature; of the man who lost his wife and children and possessions in a flood, but when was himself cast up safely on a bank and came to himself, he found the disaster was all a dream and that he was now just as he was before the flood.
(Prabuddha Bharata, February 1939)
- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.