Dec 30, 1896. Swami Vivekananda was fast asleep on the ship which was taking him back to India after a whirlwind tour of Europe and America when he had a vivid dream. An old and bearded man appeared before him, saying, “Observe well this place that I show to you. You are now in the island of Crete. This is the land in which Christianity began.” In support of this origin of Christianity, the speaker gave two words, one of which was Therapeutae, and showed both to be derived direct from Sanskrit roots. “The proofs are all here,” added the old man, pointing to the ground, “Dig and you will find!”. The Swami woke, feeling that he had had no common dream, and tumbled out on deck, to take the air. As he did so, he met a ship’s officer, turning in from his watch.
In January of 1939, when Britain was consumed by the anxiety that Hitler might invade Netherlands(the “Dutch war scare”), the young British novelist Christopher Isherwood arrived in America to further his literary prospects. In Los Angeles, he found his fellow countryman and friend Gerald Heard engaged in some mystical meditation practices under the guidance of Swami Prabhavananda who headed the Vedanta society of Southern California. In Isherwood’s opinion, the Christians were sour life-haters and sex-forbidders, hypocritically denying their rabid secret lusts while the Hindus seemed to be stridently emotional mystery-mongers whose mumbo-jumbo was ridiculous rather than sinister. Nevertheless, his curiosity was sparked by the discreet and composed Heard, who refused to divulge the secret teachings because it was absolutely forbidden to repeat the teacher’s instructions to anyone else.
This article is motivated by a recent comment on this blog. Those who have gained some familiarity with Sri Aurobindo are often baffled by his conduct: How could he smoke or eat meat while practicing Yoga? Doesn’t it violate the central tenets of Yoga? If that didn’t hinder his practice, can I emulate him? The answer is: “No, you shouldn’t emulate him” as we shall see by the end of this article.
Growing up in a social milieu, we develop into gregarious beings who are accustomed to being praised, respected or at least acknowledged for being an individual. Humiliation in any form comes as a sharp blow to the ego. When our expectations are not met, we instinctively become resentful and hold grudges instead of handling the situation with dispassion. What do you do if the Guru, the very person you expected to be an epitome of boundless compassion, suddenly turns cold and hard? It can be a particularly acute test for the disciple as the two anecdotes here illustrate.
Emma Calvé (1858 – 1942) was a well-known French female opera soprano of the Belle Époque. These are the recollections of her interaction with Swami Vivekananda(1863-1902). This article first appeared as Chapter XXII of her autobiography “My Life“, and has also appeared in the Nov 1922 issue of the Prabuddha Bharata(Awakened India) magazine.
About midway down the Coromandel coast of southeastern India stands the quaint little port-town of Pondicherry, which was a French colony from 1673 to 1954. It was here on a nondescript afternoon in March, 1914 that the spiritual collaboration between Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa began. This is an account of that memorable meeting along with some related anecdotes.