What Sister Nivedita said about Swami Vivekananda!
If I was asked, “Is there anybody who you are jealous of?” I would say that I am indeed jealous of all the disciples of Swami Vivekananda especially Sister Nivedita. But you may ask, “What is the reason for my jealousness.? They were such kind and generous people?!” It is because they were so fortunate to watch the majestic Swami and listen to the golden jewels which he had to offer in his unique and mind-boggling voice in his presence. But at the same time, I am also thankful to his devotees, because had they not recorded his teachings, we would have lost the vast treasure about the thoughts of Swami Vivekananda. The words of Sister Nivedita about Vivekananda can be considered most authentic because she spent a lot of time with Swami. Before I tell you about what Sister Nivedita told about Swami Vivekananda, it is important to know a little bit about Sister Nivedita.
Who is Sister Nivedita?
The real name of Sister Nivedita was Margaret Elizabeth Noble. She was born on 28 October 1867 and she died at an early age of 43 years on 13 October 1911. She was an Irish teacher, author, social activist, school founder, and disciple of Swami Vivekananda. Margaret’s father died in 1877 when she was ten years old.
She came from a religious background, Margaret had learned Christian religious doctrines from a young age. From childhood, she had learned to venerate all religious teachings. The infant Jesus was her object of adoration and worship. However, as she bloomed into womanhood, doubt in the Christian doctrines crept in. She found the teachings were incompatible with Truth. As these doubts became stronger, her faith in Christianity was shaken. For seven long years, Margaret was unable to settle her mind and this led to unhappiness. She tried to absorb herself in church service. However, her troubled soul could not find satisfaction and she longed for Truth.
Sister Nivedita said, “Just then I happened to get a life of Buddha and in it, I found that here also was a child who lived ever so many centuries before the Child Christ, but whose sacrifices were no less self-abnegating than those of the other. This dear child Gautama took a stronghold on me and for the next three years, I plunged into the study of the religion of Buddha and became more and more convinced that the salvation he preached was decidedly more consistent with the Truth than the preachings of the Christian religion.”
In November 1895, she met Swami Vivekananda for the first time, who had come from America to visit London and stayed there for three months. On a cold afternoon, Swami Vivekananda was explaining Vedanta philosophy in the drawing-room of an aristocratic family in London. Lady Isabel Margesson, a friend of Margaret, invited Ebenezer Cooke, who was part of the teaching staff at Margaret’s ‘Ruskin School’, to this meeting. Margaret went with him, with much curiosity and interest. Margaret did not know that this evening would change her life completely. Margaret described her experience of the occasion. “A majestic personage, clad in a saffron gown and wearing a red waistband, sat there on the floor, cross-legged. As he spoke to the company, he recited Sanskrit verses in his deep, sonorous voice.” Margaret had already delved deeply into the teachings of the East, and the novelty was not what she heard on this occasion, but it was the personality of Swamiji himself. She attended several other lectures by Swami Vivekananda. She asked a lot of questions, and his answers dispelled her doubts and established her faith and reverence for the speaker.
Seeing the fire and passion in her, Swami Vivekananda could foresee her future role in India. 25 March 1898, was the holiest and most unforgettable day of Nivedita’s (Margaret) life. That was the day on which her guru dedicated her to God and to the service of India.
She emphasized the critical role which Swami Vivekananda played in bringing respect and dignity for the Hindu religion. She explains about the vision and the plan which the Swami had laid down for the whole world when he proclaimed to his disciples, “Go ye out into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature!”
Swami Vivekananda was deeply pained by the wretchedness and misery of the people of India under British rule and his opinion was that education was the panacea for all evils plaguing the contemporary Indian society, especially that of Indian women. Margaret was chosen for the role of educating Indian women. In his letter to Margaret, Vivekananda wrote, “Let me tell you frankly that I am now convinced that you have a great future in the work for India. What was wanted was not a man but a woman, a real lioness, to work for the Indians, women especially.”
How Sister Nivedita described the great Swami.
This was the biggest tribute Sister Nivedita gave to the Swami when she said, ” it may be said that when he began to speak it was of “the religious ideas of the Hindus”, but when he ended, HINDUISM had been created”
Sister Nivedita said the following about the compilation of the works of Swami Vivekananda, “What Hinduism needed, amidst the general disintegration of the modern era, was a rock where she could lie at anchor, an authoritative utterance in which she might recognize her self. And this was given to her, in these words and writings of the Swami Vivekananda.”
The vision of the Swami and the foresightedness which he had to revive religion in the world was evident when he proclaimed to his devotees, “Go ye out into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature!”
When the Swami said in the West, “If one religion true, then all the others also must be true. Thus the Hindu faith is yours as much as mine.”, it demonstrated that he believed in universal brotherhood and held respect for all religions. But he did not shy from explaining the power and beauty of Hinduism, he said, “We Hindus do not merely tolerate, we unite ourselves with every religion, praying in the mosque of the Mohammedan, worshipping before the fire of the Zoroastrian, and kneeling to the cross of the Christian. We know that all religions alike, from the lowest fetishism to the highest absolutism, are but so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realise the Infinite. So we gather all these flowers, and, binding them together with the cord of love, make them into a wonderful bouquet of worship!”
These were beautiful words that Sister Nivedita quoted about the Swami, “All these are threaded upon Me, as pearls upon a string. Wherever thou seest extraordinary holiness and extraordinary power, raising and purifying humanity, know thou that I am there.” To the Hindu, says Vivekananda, “Man is not traveling from error to truth, but climbing up from truth to truth, from truth that is lower to truth that is higher.”
Swamiji had said, “By the Vedas, no books are meant. They mean the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons in different times. From the high spiritual flights of the Vedanta philosophy, of which the latest discoveries of science seem like echoes, to the lowest ideas of idolatry with its multifarious mythology, the agnosticism of the Buddhists, and the atheism of the Jains, each and all have a place in the Hindu’s religion.”
The broad-mindedness and respect of all religions for the world could be clearly understood when the Swami spoke the following words, “If one religion true, then all the others also must be true. Thus the Hindu faith is yours as much as mine.” But the Swami was very specific about the Vedantic Hindu religion, “We Hindus do not merely tolerate, we unite ourselves with every religion, praying in the mosque of the Mohammedan, worshipping before the fire of the Zoroastrian, and kneeling to the cross of the Christian. We know that all religions alike, from the lowest fetishism to the highest absolutism, are but so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realize the Infinite. So we gather all these flowers, and, binding them together with the cord of love, make them into a wonderful bouquet of worship.”
Sister Nivedita considers Vivekananda whose message revolved around the teachings of Vedas and Upanishads. She said, “Like the Krishna of the Gitâ, like Buddha, like Shankarâchârya, like every great teacher that Indian thought has known, his sentences are laden with quotations from the Vedas and Upanishads. He stands merely as the Revealer, the Interpreter to India of the treasures that she herself possesses in herself. The truths he preaches would have been as true, had he never been born. Nay more, they would have been equally authentic. The difference would have lain in their difficulty of access, in their want of modern clearness and incisiveness of statement, and in their loss of mutual coherence and unity. Had he not lived, texts that today will carry the bread of life to thousands might have remained the obscure disputes of scholars”
The most enthralling and eye-opening theory which surprised me was when Sister Nivedita told about the following theory of Swami Vivekananda, “To labour is to pray. To conquer is to renounce. Life is itself religion…”Art, science, and religion”, he said once, “are but three different ways of expressing a single truth. But in order to understand this we must have the theory of Advaita.”
Sister Nivedita concludes her introduction about Swami by saying, “These, then — the Shâstras, the Guru, and the Motherland — are the three notes that mingle themselves to form the music of the works of Vivekananda.