A Biography by His Eastern and Western Disciples


The Swami, with his scanty belongings and royal bearing, under the assumed name of Vividishananda entered Delhi, the city of sovereign memories. The crisp air, the grandeur of the place, its memories, its history, its atmosphere, filled him with physical and spiritual elation. He put up at the residence of Syamaldas who received him with open arms.

Here in Delhi he went everywhere and saw everything. The royal sepulchres and palaces, the deserted sites of capitals, the ruins of royal and imperial greatness impressed the young monk with the ephemeral nature of all human glory and the permanence of the spirit which knows neither coming nor going. At the same time, the historian in him found in Delhi the symbol of the immortal glory of the Indian people, and its grand but composite culture.

In the meantime some of the Gurubhais that were left at Meerut started for Delhi. At Delhi the brother-disciples soon discovered their beloved Leader, who was glad to see them. They said, “We did not know that you were staying here. We have come to Delhi to see only the old Imperial Capital. Here we heard of one Swami Vividishananda, an English-speaking monk. We were curious to see him, and it is by mere accident that we met you.” The Swami replied, “My brethren, I have said that I desire to be left alone. I have asked you not to follow me. This I repeat once more. I do not want to be followed. Herewith I leave Delhi. No one must follow me or try to know my whereabouts. I demand that you obey me. I am going to cut myself off from all old associations. Whithersoever the spirit leads, there shall I wander. It matters not whether it is a forest or a desert waste, a mountain region or a densely populated city. I am off. I wish every one to strive for his own goal according to his light.” Still the Swami lingered on at Delhi; and though he lived apart from the Gurubhais, they ate together. One day Dr. Hem Chandra Sen, a well-known Bengali physician of Delhi, spoke slightingly about the Swami to Akhandananda. A few days back when the Swami had consulted him about his tonsil his attitude seemed pronouncedly antagonistic. The doctor, however, expressed a desire to Akhandananda to meet the Leader again. One evening many professors of the local college assembled at the Doctor’s house and the Swami and his two brother-disciples were invited. A great discussion ensued. Many questions were asked and the Swami with his vast erudition impressed them all. Thereafter Dr. Sen became much attached to the small group of monks, and he invited them the following day to a feast at his house. After the brother-disciples left for Ghaziabad, the Swami set out for Rajputana. His soul was in the grip of a great restlessness and desire to attain the goal for which he had been born. He knew instinctively that the time to start his great mission was nearing; that it was the guidance of the Master, the will of the Mother, that he should seek solitude. He was glad to be cut off from his beloved brethren — the last attachment of his soul. He remembered the words of the Dhammapada:

”Go forward without a path!
Fearing nothing, caring for nothing,
Wander alone, like the rhinoceros!
Even as the lion, not trembling at noises,
Even as the wind, not caught in the net,
Even as the lotus leaf, unstained by the water,
Do thou wander alone, like the rhinoceros!”

The great strength of these words upheld and inspired him. Renouncing all ties, loosing all bondages, breaking down all limitations, destroying all sense of fear, the Swami went forth, even as the rhinoceros — towards Alwar, in the beautiful and historic land of Rajputana.

One morning in the beginning of February, 1891, the Swami alighted from the train at the Alwar railway station. Walking along the public road, fringed with gardens and verdant fields, and passing a row of beautiful mansions, he finally arrived at the State Dispensary, where stood a Bengali gentleman, Guru Charan Laskar, who proved to be the doctor in charge. The Swami inquired of him in Bengali if there was a place where Sannyasins could put up. The doctor, who was impressed by the remarkable appearance of the monk, bowed low before him, and joyfully accompanied him to the Bazar where he showed him a room in the upper story of one of the shops and said, ‘‘This is for Sannyasins, sir! Will you make vourself comfortable here for the present?” “Gladly!” responded the Swami. Seeing to the Swami’s immediate needs, the doctor hastened to the house of a Mohammedan friend, a teacher of Urdu and Persian in the High School and said, “O Moulavi Sahib! A Bengali dervish has just arrived! Come immediately and see him! I have never seen such a Mahatma before! Please talk with him while I finish my work, and I shall join you presently.” Both hurried to the Bazar, and taking their shoes off entered the bare room in which the Swami had arranged his belongings, consisting of a few books tied up in a blanket, a piece of yellow cloth, a Kamandalu and a staff, and saluted him with reverence.

The Swami called the Moulavi Sahib to his side and discoursed with much love on religious matters. Of the Koran, he said, “There is one thing very remarkable about the Koran. Even to this day, it exists as it was found eleven hundred years ago. It retains its pristine purity and is free from interpolations.” Both the visitors were much impressed, and Guru Charan, on his return to his dispensary, spoke to everyone of “a great monk” who had just come. And those who heard the physician's words caught some of his enthusiasm and went to meet the Swami. The Moulavi likewise informed all his Moslem friends, who also came in numbers. Soon a great concourse of people gathered. The Swami’s room and even the verandahs were crowded. The Swami’s discourse was interspersed with the singing of Urdu songs, Hindi Bhajana, and sometimes Bengali Kirtana, and songs of the great devotees — Vidyapati, Chandidas and Ramprasad. Sometimes he recited passages from the Vedas and the Upanishads, from the Bible and the Puranas. Or he would inspire them spiritually with stories from the lives of saints like Buddha, Shankara, Ramanuja, Guru Nanak. Chaitanya. Tulsidas, Kabir, and Ramakrishna, with which he used to illustrate his teachings of the scriptures.

After a few days, the number of devotees and admirers became so great that some well-to-do man of Alwar arranged that he should stay at the house of Pandit Shambhunathji, a retired Engineer of the Alwar State. Here the Swami regulated his life, remaining by himself in prayer and meditation from early morning until the hour of nine, when he emerged from his room to find generally some twenty or thirty people of all castes, creeds and classes awaiting him. Some were Sunnis and Shiahs of the Mohammedan fold, some were Shaivites and Vaishnavites. Some were men of wealth and position and learning, others were illiterate and poor. The Swami treated them all alike and answered their questions until noon. There was absolute freedom between him and those who came, if one asked an irrelevant question, such as, “Maharaj, to what caste does your body belong” even while he was explaining the highest metaphysical subject, he would immediately reply without any evidence of vexation, “It is Kayastha!” Some monks would have evaded a direct reply, hoping to be taken for a Brahmin, but the Swami was above all thought of caste. Again another would ask him, “Sir, why do you wear Gerua?” To which he would reply, “Because it is the garb of beggars! Poor people would ask me for alms if I were to wear white clothes. Being a beggar myself, most times I do not have even a single pice with me to give them, and it causes me pain to have to refuse one who begs of me. But seeing my Gerua cloth, they understand that I am a beggar even as they are, and they would not think of begging from a beggar.” This is a most original and touching explanation of his reason for wearing the Sannyasin’s robe, for the popular saying is, “Without Bhek, or a distinguishing garb of renunciation, no Bhiksha, or alms, is available.”

Sometimes the conversation would centre upon the blessedness of Mother-worship, and his heart would become so full that he could say nothing but “Mother! Mother!” At these times his chanting of Her name, which was at first loud and full, gradually became softer and softer as though it, too, were travelling with his soul — far, far away — until finally it would die away; and from the Swami’s closed eyes tears of joy would fall showing how very close was his spiritual communion with the Mother. And the devotees would share in his ecstasy and from their eyes too would flow tears of joy. In the afternoon, and particularly the evening, there would be the same ecstasy of song and prayer, and often many of those present would join with the Swami in songs of praise of the Lord. Days slipped by in this manner; all sense of time seemed to be lost! Sometimes the meetings would continue to midnight. He initiated some, giving them Mantras.

Among all his friends the Moulavi Sahib was one of the most devoted. He had a strong desire to invite him to his house and give him Bhiksha. He thought, "Swamiji is a great dervish with no caste distinction. But then Panditji, with whom he is staying, may object." Nevertheless, he went to Panditji one evening, and with folded hands before all present said, “Do allow me to have the Babaji in my house for his meal tomorrow! To satisfy you all I will have all the furniture in my sitting-room washed by Brahmins; the food which will be offered to Swamiji will be purchased and cooked by Brahmins in the utensils brought from their homes.” And he added, “This Yavana will be more than compensated if he can but see the Swami, at a distance, eating his food.” The Moulavi spoke these words with such sincere humility that all present were impressed, and Panditji clasped his hands in friendship saying, “My friend, Swamiji is a dervish! What is caste to him! There is no need to take such trouble. I, for my part, have no objection. Any arrangement you may make will satisfy us. Indeed, under such conditions as you propose, I myself can have no qualms of conscience in eating at your house, to say nothing of Swamiji who is a Mukta!” And so it happened that the Moulavi Sahib entertained the Swami in his own house and felt himself blessed. Many other devout Mohammedans followed the Moulavi’s example and cordially invited the Swami to their homes also.

Some time later, Major Ramchandraji, the Dewan to the Maharaja of Alwar, chanced to hear of the presence of a great Sadhu in the city, and invited him to his house. On better acquaintance he felt that the Swami would be a helpful influence for the Maharaja, Mangal Singhji, who had become much anglicised in thought and manners. He wrote to the Maharaja, who was at that time living in a palace some miles distant, saying, “A great Sadhu with a stupendous knowledge of English is here.” The very next day the Maharaja came to the Dewan’s house, where he met the Swami and bowed down before him,1 at the same time urging him to be seated.

The Maharaja opened the conversation with, ‘‘Well, Swamiji Maharaj, I hear that you are a great scholar. You can easily earn a handsome sum of money every month. Why then do you go about begging?” The Swami replied with a question which was a home thrust, ‘‘Maharaj, tell me why you spend your time constantly in the company of Westerners and go on shooting excursions and neglect your duties to the State.” The courtiers who were present were taken aback. “What a bold Sadhu! He will repent of this,” they thought with bated breath. But the Maharaja took it calmly, and after a little thought replied, “I cannot say why, but no doubt because I like to!” “Well, for that very same reason do I wander about as a fakir,” the Swami exclaimed.

The next question the Maharaja asked was, “Well, Babaji Maharaj, I have no faith in idol-worship. What is going to be my fate?” And he smiled as he spoke. The Swami seemed slightly annoyed and exclaimed, “Surely you are joking!” “No, Swamiji, not at all! You see, I really cannot worship wood, earth, stone or metal, like other people. Does this mean that I shall fare worse in the life hereafter?” The Swami answered, “Well, I suppose every man should follow his religious ideal according to his own faith!” The devotees of the Swami became perplexed at this reply, for they knew that the Swami sanctioned image-worship. But the Swami had not finished. His eyes alighted on a picture of the Maharaja which was hanging on the wall. At his express desire it was passed to him. Holding it in his hand he asked, “Whose picture is this?” The Dewan answered, “It is the likeness of our Maharaja.” A moment later they trembled with fear when they heard the Swami commanding the Dewan to spit upon it. “Spit upon it!” commanded the Swami. “Any one of you may spit upon it. What is it but a piece of paper? What objection can you have to do so?” The Dewan was thunder-struck, and the eyes of all glanced in terror and awe from the Prince to the monk, from the monk to the Prince. But all the while the Swami insisted, “Spit upon it! I say, spit upon it!” And the Dewan in fear and bewilderment cried out, “What! Swamiji! What are you asking me to do? This is the likeness of our Maharaja! How can I do such a thing?” “Be it so,” said the Swami, “but the Maharaja is not bodily present in this photograph. This is only a piece of paper. It does not contain his bones and flesh and blood. It does not speak or behave or move in any way as does the Maharaja. And yet all of you refuse to spit upon it, because you see in this photo the shadow of the Maharaja’s form. Indeed, in spitting upon the photo, you feel that you insult your master, the Prince himself.” Turning to the Maharaja he continued, “See, Your Highness, though this is not you in one sense, in another sense it is you. That was why your devoted servants were so perplexed when I asked them to spit upon it. It has a shadow of you; it brings you into their minds. One glance at it makes them see you in it! Therefore they look upon it with as much respect as they do upon your own person. Thus it is with the devotees who worship stone and metal images of gods and goddesses. It is because an image brings to their minds their Ishta, or some special form and attributes of the Divinity, and helps them to concentrate, that the devotees worship God in an image. They do not worship the stone or the metal as such. I have travelled in many places, but nowhere have I found a single Hindu worshipping an image, saying, ‘O Stone! I worship Thee! O Metal! Be merciful to me!’ Everyone is worshipping, O Maharaja, the same one God who is the Supreme Spirit, the Soul of Pure Knowledge. And God appears to all even according to their understanding and their representation of Him. Prince, I speak for myself! Of course, I cannot speak for you!” And Mangal Singh, who had been listening attentively all this time, said with folded hands, “Swamiji! I must admit that according to the light you have thrown upon image-worship, I have never yet met anyone who has worshipped stone, or wood, or metal. Heretofore I did not understand its meaning! You have opened my eyes! But what will be my fate? Have mercy on me!” The Swami answered, “O Prince, none but God can be merciful to one, and He is ever-merciful! Pray to Him. He will show His mercy unto you!”

After the Swami had taken leave, Mangal Singh remained thoughtful for a while and then said, “Dewanji, never have I come across such a Mahatma! Make him stay with you for some time.” The Dewan promised to do so, adding, ”I will try my best; but I do not know if I shall succeed. He is a man of fiery and independent character.” After many entreaties the Swami consented to live with the Dewan, but only under one condition, that all those poor and illiterate people who often came to him should have the right to see him freely whensoever they desired, even as the rich and those of higher positions. The Dewan readily agreed to this and the Swami consented to stay on with him.

Many of those who visited the Swami found their lives completely changed as the result of their contact with him. There was an old man, however, who came daily, constantly asking him for his blessings and his mercy. Accordingly the Swami instructed him in certain practices, but he would not follow them. Finally, the Swami became impatient with him, and one day seeing the man coming at a distance and wishing to get rid of him, he assumed an attitude of extreme reserve. He did not answer any of the old man’s questions, nor respond to any of the greetings of the many friends gathered there. They could not understand what the matter with him was. An hour and a half passed in this way, and still the Swami sat like a statue. The old man became angry and left swearing to himself. The Swami then burst into boyish laughter, in which all present also joined. A young man asked, “Swamiji. why were you so hard on that old man?” The Swami replied lovingly, “Dear sons, I am ready to sacrifice my life for you for you are willing to follow my advice and have the power to do it! But here is an old man who has spent nine-tenths of his life in running after the pleasures of the senses; now he is incapacitated for both the spiritual and the worldly life and thinks he can have God’s mercy for the mere asking! What is needed to attain Truth is Purushakara, or personal exertion. How can God have mercy on one who is devoid of such exertion? He who is wanting in manliness is full of Tamas. It was because Arjuna, the bravest of warriors, was going to lose this manliness that Shri Krishna commanded him to do his Swadharma, so that by fulfilling his duties without attachment to results, he might acquire the qualities of Sattva, purification of hearty renunciation of all work, and self-surrender. Be strong! Be manly! I have respect even for a wicked person so long as he is manly and strong, for his strength will make him some day give up his wickedness and even renounce all work for selfish ends, and will thus eventually bring him to the Truth.”

Following the Swami’s instructions, many young men of Alwar applied themselves to the study of Sanskrit. At times the Swami acted as teacher. He told them, “Study Sanskrit, but along with it study Western science as well. Leant accuracy, my boys! Study and labour, so that the time will come when you can put our history on a scientific basis. For now Indian history is disorganised. It has no chronological accuracy. The histories of our country written by English writers cannot but be weakening to our minds, for they tell only of our downfall. How can foreigners, who understand very little of our manners and customs or of our religion and philosophy, write faithful and unbiased histories of India? Naturally, many false notions and wrong inferences have found their way into them. Nevertheless Europeans have shown us how to proceed in making researches into our ancient history. Now it is for us to strike out an independent path of historical research for ourselves, to study the Vedas and the Puranas and the ancient annals of India, and from these make it our life’s Sadhana to write accurate, sympathetic and soul-inspiring histories of the land. It is for Indians to write Indian History. Therefore set yourselves to the task of rescuing our lost and hidden treasures from oblivion! Even as one whose child has been lost does not rest until one has found it, so do you never cease to labour until vou have revived the glorious Past of India in the consciousness of the people. That will be the true national education, and with its advancement a true national spirit will be awakened!”

The Swami’s personality endeared him to everyone. There was a Brahmin boy who often came to him and who loved him as a disciple loves his master. He was of the age when he should have been invested with the sacred thread, but he lacked the means. When the Swami heard of this he could not rest. He spoke to the well-to-do among his devotees, “I have one thing to beg of you. Here is a Brahmin boy who is too poor to meet the expenses for his Upanayana, or the sacred thread ceremony. As householders it is your duty to help him. Try to raise a subscription on his behalf. It is unbecoming for a Brahmin boy of his age not to know the obligatory religious duties of his caste. Moreover, it will be very good of you if you can provide for his education also.” The devotees hastened to raise the necessary funds. The Swami left shortly after this, but one can see in the first letter that he wrote to one of his friends at Alwar a month later that he did not forget the case, for he begins the letter by asking about the Upanayana ceremony of the boy.2

So the days grew into weeks, and when seven weeks had passed the Swami felt the Parivrajaka call. He said to his friends, “I must be going! A Sannyasin must always be on the move.” And so he left, bidding farewell to his devoted disciples and Bhaktas,who could not bear the thought of parting from him. He was much affected at leaving them, but he, the Teacher, must always wander, teaching, preaching and helping mankind everywhere, with the Spirit of the Lord within his heart. His friends insisted that he must travel by a covered bullock-cart as far as Pandupol at least, to avoid the heat and the loneliness. Several of his disciples begged to be allowed to accompany him for the first fifty or sixty miles; at first he objected, but was overcome finally by their pleadings.

At Pandupol there is a well-known temple, dedicated to Hanumanji. The Swami proceeded there at once and slept that night in the temple-compound. On the following morning he abandoned the bullock-cart, and he and his party went on foot some sixteen miles through a wild mountainous region, infested with wild beasts, to a village known by the name of Tahla. But the members of the party were so occupied with the stories, now amusing, now serious, with which the Swami entertained them and they felt so blessed in his presence that they had no thought of danger. In this village they spent the night in a temple dedicated to Nilkantha Mahadeva.

The next morning, the Swami walked on some eighteen miles farther to the village Naravani where the Mother, in one of Her many forms, is worshipped. Here every year a great Mela or fair is held, and from all parts of Rajputana people come to worship Her. Here the Swami parted from his friends and went on by himself to the next village called Bosoweh, some sixteen miles distant, where he took the train for the city of Jaipur, whither he had been pressed to come by a devotee who had met him at Alwar. This gentleman boarded the train at the Bandikui station and accompanied the Swami the rest of the trip to Jaipur. At Jaipur, the disciple insisted that the Swami should pose for a photograph. The Swami, much against his wishes, finally consented. This was the first time that a picture of the Swami as the wandering monk was taken.

The Swami remained at Jaipur for two weeks, during which time he met a famous Sanskrit grammarian and decided to study grammar with him. The teacher, though very learned, had not the faculty of imparting his knowledge. For three days he tried to explain to the Swami the commentary on the first Sutra or aphorism, but without success. On the fourth day, the Pandit said, “Swamiji, I am afraid you are not deriving much benefit from studying with me for in three days I have not been able to make you grasp the meaning of the Sutra.” The Swami resolved to master the commentary by himself. In three hours he accomplished what the Pandit could not do in three days. Shortly after, he went to the Pandit and in a casual way explained the commentary and its purport. The Pandit was amazed. After this the Swami proceeded to master Sutra after Sutra and chapter after chapter. Later he said in speaking of this experience, “If the mind is intensely eager, everything can be accomplished — mountains can be crumbled into atoms/’

At Jaipur the Swami became very intimate with Sardar Hari Singh, the Commander-in-Chief of the State. He passed many days in his home discussing many interesting and instructive spiritual and scriptural subjects. One day the subject was the efficacy of image-worship. A strong believer in the doctrines of the Vedanta, Hari Singh did not believe in images and even after hours of discussion with the Swami he remained unconvinced. In the evening they went out for a walk. As they were passing along the footpath they came upon some devotees carrying the image of Shri Krishna and singing devotional songs as they went. The Swami and the Sardar watched the procession for a while as it passed. Suddenly the Swami touched Hari Singh and said, "Look there, see the living God!" The eyes of the Sardar fell on the image of Lord Krishna, and he stood there transfixed with tears of ecstasy trickling down his cheeks. When he returned to ordinary consciousness, he exclaimed, “Well, Swamiji, that was a revelation to me. What I could not understand after hours of discussion, was easily comprehended through your touch. Verily I saw the Lord in the image of Krishna!”

Another day, the Swami was seated with a number of followers giving them spiritual instructions, when a learned Sardar, Pandit Suraj Narain, honoured throughout the province for his erudition, came to see him. He caught the thread of the Swami’s conversation and said, “Swamiji, I am a Vedantist. I do not believe in the special divinity of Incarnations, the Avataras of the Hindu mythology. We are all Brahman. What is the difference between me and an Avatara?” The Swami replied, “Yes, that is quite true. The Hindus count fish, tortoise and boar as Incarnations. You say that you are also an Avatara. But with which of these do you feel yourself as one?” There was a peal of laughter at this, and the Sardar was silenced.

Being restless and also desirous of moving on, the Swami next went to Ajmer, replete with the memories of the magnificence of its Hindu and Mogul rulers. In the summer months of 1891, he is found at Mount Abu, a celebrated hill resort of Central India and Rajputana renowned for the delicacy and beauty of the carvings of the Dilwara temple.

The Swami soon gathered around him a number of devoted followers with whom he used to walk in the evening. One day they were walking along the Bailey’s walk, commending the most beautiful scenery of the Hill Station. Below them stretched the lake of Mount Abu. The Swami with his friends left the walk and sat down amongst the stones. He began to sing and his song went on for hours. Some Europeans who were also taking an evening stroll were struck with the sweet music and waited for hours to get a glimpse of the singer. At last he came down and they congratulated him on his sweet voice and ecstatic song. At Mount Abu, destiny put the Maharaja of Khetri in his path. It happened in this wise. The Swami was living in a forlorn cave, where he practised austerities and meditation. His sole belongings were one or two blankets, a water-bowl and a few books. One day a Mussalman, a vakil of a native Prince, happened to pass by and saw the Swami. Struck with his princely appearance, he decided to talk to him. A few minutes' conversation impressed him with the wonderful learning and scholarship of the recluse. He became much attached to the Swami and visited him quite often. One day the vakil asked the Swami if he could be of any service to him. The Swami said, “Look here, Vakil Saheb, the rainy season is fast approaching. There are no doors to this cave. You can make for me a pair of doors, if you please.” Much gratified, the vakil said. “This cave is a wretched one. If you will allow me, I will make a suggestion. I live alone in a nice Bungalow here. If you would condescend to come and live with me, I shall feel rnyself greatly blessed.” When the Swami agreed to the proposal, the vakil said. “But I am a Mussalman. I shall, of course, make separate arrangements for your food.” The Swami brushed this aside and moved to the Bungalow. Through the vakil and his brother officers of other States, the Swami made many friends in Mount Abu, including the vakil of the Maharaj of Kotah and Thakur Fateh Singh, the Minister of that Prince. After a few days, the Mussalman vakil invited Munshi Jagmohanlal, the Private Secretary to the Maharaja of Khetri, to see him. As it happened, the Swami was resting at the time, having on only a Kaupina and a piece of cloth. When the visitor saw the sleeping monk, he thought, “Oh! here is one of those common Sadhus, who are no better than thieves and rogues!” Presently the Swami awoke. Almost the first thing that was said to him by Jagmohanlal was, “Well, Swamiji, you are a Hindu monk. How is it that you are living with a Mussalman! Your food might, now and then, be touched by him.” At this question, the Swami flared up. He said, “Sir, what do you mean? I am a Sannyasin. I am above all your social conventions. I can dine even with a Bhangi. I am not afraid of God, because He sanctions it. I am not afraid of the scriptures, because they allow it. But I am afraid of you people and your society. You know nothing of God and the scriptures. I see Brahman everywhere, manifested even through the meanest creature. For me there is nothing high or low. Shiva, Shiva!” A sort of divine fire shone about him. Jagmohanlal was silenced; but all the same, he wished that the Maharaja should make the acquaintance of such a Swami. He said, “Swamiji, do come with me to the palace to meet the Maharaja.” The monk replied, “Very well, I will go day after tomorrow.” Jagmohanlal on his return told his Prince all that had happened. The Maharaja became so desirous of meeting the Swami that he said, “I will go myself to see him.” When the Swami heard this he went instantly to the palace, where His Highness warmly welcomed him. After the usual formalities he asked him, “Swamiji, what is life?” The monk replied, “Life is the unfoldment and development of a being under circumstances tending to press it down.” The Swami's own life of hardship and renunciation caused a world of feeling to appear in his words. Impressed, the Maharaja next asked, “Well, Swamiji, what then is education?” The response was, “I should say, education is the nervous association of certain ideas.” And he went on to explain this statement, saying that not until ideas had been made instincts could they he reckoned as real and vital possessions of consciousness. Then he told of the life of Shri Ramakrishna to the Maharaja, who sat listening to him eagerly and attentively, his soul wrapt in a flame of burning passion for Truth, as he heard the words of spiritual nectar fall from the Swami’s lips.

For days the Maharaja listened to the monk’s words of wisdom; then he invited him to go with him to Khetri. The Swami reflected for a moment and agreed. Several days after, the Prince and his retinue left Mount Abu and journeyed by train to Jaipur, the Swami joining him as promised. The distance of ninety miles from Jaipur to Khetri was travelled in a state carriage. A few days after reaching Khetri, the Swami initiated him. And what a wonderful disciple he became! Memories still live of him kneeling in reverence before the Swami, and the monk in his turn, knowing the depth and the sincerity of the man, loved him dearly and expected much of him in the way of advancing the well-being of the country. Later, in America, he kept him advised of his progress and made him one of the privileged ones by writing him marvellous letters.

The Swami passed many weeks with the Maharaja, studying, teaching and living the spiritual life. Though in a palace, he lived as a monk, in constant communion with his soul and his Master. At the palace he became acquainted with Pandit Narayandas who was the foremost Sanskrit grammarian of his time in Rajputana. Believing this to be a great opportunity, the Swami decided to resume his study of the Mahabhashva, Patanjali’s great commentary on the Sutras of Panini, which he had begun at Jaipur. The Pandit was pleased to have him as a pupil. After the first day he remarked. “Swamiji, it is not often one meets a student like you!” One day the Pandit questioned the Swami on a very long lesson given the day before. To his surprise the monk quoted the whole of it verbatim, adding his own comments thereto. After a time the Pandit seeing that his pupil was often forced to answer his own questions said, “Swamiji, there is nothing more to teach you. I have taught you all that I know, and you have absorbed it.” And so the Swami, saluting the Pandit respectfully, thanked him for the kindness he had shown him and became in many respects the teacher of the teacher.

On one occasion the Maharaja asked the Swami, “Swamiji, what is law?” Without a moment’s hesitation he exclaimed, “Law is altogether internal. It does not exist outside; it is a phenomenon of intelligence and experience. It is the mind which classifies sense-observations and moulds them into laws. The order of experience is always internal. Apart from the impression received through the sense-organs and the reaction of intelligence upon these, in an orderly and consecutive manner, there is no law. The scientists say that it is all homogeneous substance and homogeneous vibration. Experience and its classification are internal phenomena. Thus law itself is intelligent and is born in absolute intelligence.” Following upon this statement the Swami spoke of the Sankhya philosophy and showed how modern science corroborated its conclusions. He then influenced the Maharaja to take an active interest in scientific study, urging upon him the country’s need for scientific training and researches. With this purpose he ordered some science primers for the Maharaja and, later on, some scientific instruments of a simple order, and himself began to teach his royal pupil.

No words can paint the devotion of the Maharaja to his Guru. So great was his reverence for him that he would serve him, rubbing his feet gently, whilst the Swami lay asleep; but the Swami did not allow him to do this before others, saying that it would lower the dignity of the Maharaja in the eyes of his subjects.

One day the Maharaja expressed sorrow to the Swami for not having been blessed with a son and heir, and feeling that the Swami could grant him any favour, said, “Swamiji, bless me that a son may be born unto me. If you will only do so, there is no doubt that my prayer will be granted.” Seeing his anxiety, the Swami blessed the Prince.

But let it not be thought that the Swami spent the whole of his time in the palace. He was often at the houses of his poorer devotees, and frequently ate at the house of Pandit Shankar Pal, a poor Brahmin. The whole town of Khetri was enamoured of the Swami, and he treated the least of his admirers with the same love and affection as he showed to the Maharaja.

He thus spent some time at Khetri, beloved of the Prince and his subjects, instructing them in various ways and showering his blessings on them. But soon again the Swami felt that he must go into the wide world, unattached. And so next we find him on his way to Ahmedabad.

  1. ^The Sannyasins who have renounced the world belong to the fourth or highest state of social gradation in Hindu society, and as such they are worthy of respect from even Princes.
  2. ^Complete Works, Vol. VI, letter addressed to G. S., dated the 30th April, 1891.