While corresponding with Mary, the Swamiji called a spade a spade; he never shrank to speak his mind, however harsh it might seem. He did so too with her because he knew she wouldn’t misunderstand him, for she was inclined to learn from him.

During his stay in America he wrote to her, “Nowhere have I heard so much about ‘love, life, and liberty’ as in this country, but nowhere is it less understood.” In order to instill God in her faith, he mentioned the ephemeral nature of everything in this world. He said, “Wealth goes, beauty vanishes, life flies, power flies ~ but the Lord abideth forever, love abideth forever.” He taught her how to pray and call on God intensely.

He said: “Stick to God! …Through the pangs of death say, my God, my love! Through all the evils under the sun, say – my God, my Love! Thou art here, I see Thee. Thou art with me, I feel Thee. I am Thine, take me. I’m not of the world but Thine, leave then not me.” His cryptic remark finally was: “Do not go for glass beads leaving the mine of diamonds.” He inspired her to seek the highest.

In another letter he frankly tells: “I will tell you what is to my taste; I cannot write and I cannot speak, but I can think deeply, and when I am heated, can speak fire. It should be, however, to a select, a very select few. Let them if they will, carry and scatter my ideas broadcast ~ not I.

This is just division of labour. The same man never succeeded in thinking and scattering his thoughts. “A man should be free to think, especially spiritual thoughts. Just because this assertion of independence, this proving that man is not a machine, is the essence of all religious thought, it is impossible to think it in the routine mechanical way.

It is this tendency to bring everything down to the level of a machine that has given the West its wonderful prosperity. And it is this which has driven away all religion from its doors. Even the little that is left, the West has reduced to a systematic drill.”

Similarly, the letter of 1 February 1895 is replete with sagacity and exhortations, in which he speaks roundly to Mary. He had an altercation with a Presbyterian priest – who “got very hot, angry, and abusive” – when Mary and Mrs Ole Bull were present. Both were nervous, thinking perhaps the priest could bring harm to his work. So, they thought he ought to be sweet and nice before outsiders. He was, of course, not the least in agreement with their “opinion”. He was, even, “afterwards severely reprimanded by Mrs Bull for this’ as she used to look upon him as her own child and protect him as well, though he was actually her Guru.

In reply to Mary’s “criticism” he writes: “I know full well how good it is for one’s worldly prospects to be sweet. I do everything to be sweet, but when it comes to a horrible compromise with the truth within, then I stop. I do not believe in humility. I believe in Samadarshitva ~ the same state of mind with regard to all. The duty of the ordinary man is to obey the commands of his ‘God’, society; but the children of light never do so. This is an eternal law.

One accommodates himself to surroundings and social opinion and gets all good things from society. The other stands alone and draws society up towards him. The accommodating man finds a path of roses; the non-accommodating, one of thorns. But the worshipers of ‘Vox Populi’ go to annihilation in a moment; the children of truth live for ever.’

He compares “truth to a corrosive substance of infinite power” which “burns its way in wherever it falls”. He says, “Fear is the greatest sin my religion teaches. Sister, the way is long, the time is short, evening is approaching. I have to go home soon. I have no time to give my manners a finish.”

Vivekananda unequivocally tells her in a gist what really is his mission. “In one word, I have a message to give, I have no time to be sweet to the world. And every attempt at sweetness makes me a hypocrite. I will die a thousand deaths rather than lead a jelly-fish existence and yield to every requirement of this foolish world.”

As a teacher as well as elder brother he points out to her, “But you are babies and babies must submit to be taught. You have not yet drunk of that fountain which makes ‘reason, unreason, mortal, immortal, this world a zero and of man a God’. He closes this letter with such words as ‘May you never be enchanted by this old witch the world!’ ”

A believer in Christian Science, Mary had no difficulty to perpetuate a free and facile communication with Vivekananda ~ a protagonist of the Vedanta ~ and prolifically so. Gems of wisdom are studded all over the letters of Swami Vivekananda to her. Sincere perusal of them enriches one with the essence of all learning.

(Concluded)

The writer is with Ramakrishna Mission, Narendrapur.