The summer of 1898 stands out in my”
memory as a series of pictures, painted like
old altar-pieces, against a golden back-
ground of religious ardour and simplicity,
and all alike glorified by the presence of one who, to us in his immediate circle, formed
their central point. We were a party of four
Western women, one of whom was Mrs,
Ole Bull of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and another a member of the higher official world of Anglo-Indian Calcutta.
But it was not only the great cities
of admitted beauty and historical importance,
that the Swami, in his eagerness, would
strive to impress on our memory. Perhaps nowhere did his love seem more ardent,
or his absorption more intense, than as we passed across the long stretches of the Plains, covered with fields and farms and villages. Here his thought was free to brood over the land as a whole, and he would spend hours explaining the communal system of agricul- ture, or describing the daily life of the farm housewife, with such details as that of the pot-du-feu of mixed grains left boiling all night, for the morning porridge. It was the memory, doubtless, of his own days as a wanderer, that so brightened his eyes and thrilled in his voice, as he told us these
For I have heard it said sadhus by
things that there is no hospitality in India like that of the humble peasant home.
True the mistress has no better bedding to offer than straw, no better shelter than an outhouse built of mud. But it is she who steals in at the last moment, before she goes to rest herself amongst her sleeping household, to place a tooth-brush twig and a bowl of milk where the guest will find them, on waking in the morning, that he may go forth from beneath her roof comforted and refreshed.
It would seem sometimes as if the Swami lived and moved and had his very being in the sense of his country’s past. His historic consciousness was extraordinarily developed. Thus, as we journeyed across the Terai, in the hot hours of an afternoon near the be- ginning of the rains, we were made to feel that this was the very earth on which had passed the youth and renunciation of Buddha.
The wild peacocks spoke to us of Rajputana and her ballad lore. An occasional elephant
was the text for tales of ancient battles, and the story of an India that was never defeated, so long as she could oppose to the tide of conquest the military walls of these living artillery…It was as we passed into the Punjab, Rowever, that we caught our deepest glimpse of the Master’s love of his own land.
one who had seen him here, would have supposed him to have been born in the pro- vince, so intensely had he identified himself with it. It would seem that he had been
deeply bound to the people there by many
ties of love and reverence had received ;
much and given much ; for there were some amongst them who urged that they found in him a rare mixture of ‘Guru Nanak and Guru Govind,” their first teacher and their last.
Even the most suspicious amongst them trusted him. And if they refused to credit
his judgment, or endorse his outflowing sympathy, in regard to those Europeans whom he had made his own, he, it may have been, loved the wayward hearts all the more for their inflexible condemnation and incorruptible sternness. His American disciples were already familiar with his picture that called to his own face a dreamy delight, of the Punjabi maiden at her spinning wheel,listening to its “Sivoham! Sivoham! I am He! I am He!” Yet at the same time, I must not forget to tell that it was here, on entering the Punjab, even as, near the end of his life, he is said to have done again at Benares, that he called to
him the Mussulman vendor of sweetmeats, and bought and ate from his hand Moham- medan food.
As we went through some village, he would point out to us those strings of mari-
golds above the door, that distinguished the Hindu homes. Again he would show us the pure golden tint of skin, so different from
the pink and white of the European ideal, that constitutes the ‘fairness’ admired by the Indianraces. Or as one drove beside him a tonga, he would forget all, in that tale of which he never wearied, of Siva, the Great God, silent, remote upon the mountains, ask- ing nothing of men but solitude, and ”lost in one eternal meditation.’
Paintings by Nandalal Bose
Notes and Correspondences
Man does not live by bread alone. When the physical and material wants are satisfied, the human soul aspires for more refined and sublime expressions in the forms of art, poetry, music, and spiritual contemplation. The excellence in art attained by any people is a sure indication of the high level of culture to which they have risen. In India, from the very early times we find that art was cultivated and wonderful results have been attained. With the passing away of national government and indigenous rules of, great masters of art who used to attract budding geniuses, were neglected and for a time, art at its highest level became rare. In spite of the want of this patronage, the twentieth century shows clear signs of art revival alongside of the awakening of the national consciousness.
JUST imagine Hanuman’s state of mind. He didn’t care for money, honour, creature comforts, or anything else. He longed only for God. When he was running away with the heavenly weapon that had been secreted in the crystal pillar, Mandodari began to tempt him with various fruits so that he
might come down and drop the weapon . But he
couldn’t be tricked so easily. persuasions he sang this song:
Am I in need of fruit?
I have the fruit that makes this life Fruitful indeed
Within my heart
The tree of Rama grows,
Bearing salvation for its fruits Under the wish-fulfilling Tree Of Rama do I sit at ease Plucking whatever fruit I will But if you speak of fruit—
No beggar, I, for common, fruit.
Behold, I go
Leaving a bitter fruit for you.
–Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by Mahendranath Gupta
"Once Rama asked Hanuman, 'How do you look on Me?' And Hanuman replied: 'O Rama, as
long as I have the feeling of "I", I see that Thou art the whole and I am a part -Sri Ramakrishna
Therefore our solution of the caste question is not degrading those who are already high up, is not running amuck through food and drink, is not jumping out of our own limits in order to have more enjoyment, but it comes by every one of us, fulfilling the dictates of our Vedantic religion (…) Such is our ideal of caste as meant for raising all humanity slowly and gently towards the realisation of that great ideal of the spiritual man who is non-resisting, calm, steady, worshipful, pure, and meditative. In that ideal there is God.
Let us tell our countrymen of the danger, let them awake and help us. I will cry at the top of my voice from one part of this country to the other, to awaken the people to the situation and their duty. Suppose they do not hear me, still I shall not have one word of abuse for them, not one word of cursing. Great has been our nation’s work in the past; and if we cannot do greater things in the future, let us have this consolation that we can sink and die together in peace. Be patriots, love the race which has done such great things for us in the past. Ay, the more I compare notes, the more I love you, my fellow-countrymen; you are good and pure and gentle. You have been always tyrannised over, and such is the irony of this material world of Mâyâ. Never mind that; the Spirit will triumph in the long run. In the meanwhile let us work and let us not abuse our country, let us not curse and abuse the weather-beaten and work-worn institutions of our thrice-holy motherland. Have no word of condemnation even for the most superstitious and the most irrational of its institutions, for they also must have served some good in the past. Remember always that there is not in the world any other country whose institutions are really better in their aims and objects than the institutions of this land. I have seen castes in almost every country in the world, but nowhere is their plan and purpose so glorious as here. If caste is thus unavoidable, I would rather have a caste of purity and culture and self-sacrifice, than a caste of dollars. Therefore utter no words of condemnation. Close your lips and let your hearts open. Work out the salvation of this land and of the whole world, each of you thinking that the entire burden is on your shoulders. Carry the light and the life of the Vedanta to every door, and rouse up the divinity that is hidden within every soul. Then, whatever may be the measure of your success, you will have this satisfaction that you have lived, worked, and died for a great cause. In the success of this cause, howsoever brought about, is centred the salvation of humanity here and hereafter.
If any action of mine claimed to be spiritual is proved to be unpractical, it must be pronounced to be a failure. I do believe that the most spiritual act is the most practical in the true sense of the term.
Gandhiji, Harijan 1-7-1939