Stories from the Life of Swami Vivekananda – # 2
In the first story of this series, we saw how certain distressed spirits, who had committed suicide, had succeeded in greatly perturbing Swami Vivekananda (Swamiji) by wrongly informing him of his mother’s demise.
At the time of occurrence of this incident, in the year 1893, Swamiji was away from his home in Calcutta, residing as the guest of Manmatha Babu in Madras, and preparing for his impending departure to the United States.
Being so far away from home, and having no quick means of ascertaining the truth in the ‘suicides’ statements, Swamiji at the request of his host, decided to employ some unusual means to put his mind at rest.
Here is the full story as Swami Vivekananda himself recounted, during a conversation with his disciple Sharat Chandra Chakravarty and Swami Yogananda (another direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna):
Swami Yogananda to Swamiji: “Well, why don’t you narrate to our Bangal (East Bengali disciple) that incident of yours in Madras when you met the famous ghost-tamer?”
Swamiji: “Once while I was putting up at Manmatha Babu’s place, I dreamt one night that my mother had died. My mind became much distracted. Not to speak of corresponding with anybody at home, I used to send no letters in those days even to our Math.
The dream being disclosed to Manmatha, he sent a wire to Calcutta to ascertain facts about the matter. For the dream had made my mind uneasy on the one hand, and on the other, our Madras friends, with all arrangements ready, were insisting on my departing for America immediately, and I felt rather unwilling to leave before getting any news of my mother.
So Manmatha who discerned this state of my mind suggested our repairing to a man (whose name was Govinda Chetti) living some way off from town, who having acquired mystic powers over spirits could tell fortunes and read the past and the future of a man’s life.
So at Manmatha’s request and to get rid of my mental suspense, I agreed to go to this man.
Covering the distance partly by railway and partly on foot, we four of us – Manmatha, Alasinga, myself, and another – managed to reach the place, and what met our eyes there was a man with a ghoulish, haggard, soot-black appearance, sitting close to a cremation ground.
His attendants used some jargon of South Indian dialect to explain to us that this was the man with perfect power over the ghosts. At first the man took absolutely no notice of us; and then, when we were about to retire from the place, he made a request for us to wait.
Our Alasinga was acting as the interpreter, and he explained the requests to us. Next, the man commenced drawing some figures with a pencil, and presently I found him getting perfectly still in mental concentration.
Then he began to give out my name, my genealogy, the history of my long line of forefathers and said that Shri Ramakrishna (Swami Vivekananda’s divine guru who had by then left his body) was keeping close to me all through my wanderings, intimating also to me good news about my mother. He also foretold that I would have to go very soon to far-off lands for preaching religion.
Getting good news thus about my mother, we all travelled back to town, and after arrival received by wire from Calcutta the assurance of mother’s doing well.”
Swamiji turning to Swami Yogananda: “Everything that the man had foretold came to be fulfilled to the letter, call it some fortuitous concurrence or anything you will.”
Swami Yogananda: “It was because you would not believe all this before that this experience was necessary for you.”
Swamiji: “Well, I am not a fool to believe anything and everything without direct proof. And coming into this realm of Mahamaya (the primordial energy that creates the Universe), oh, the many magic mysteries I have come across alongside this bigger magic conjuration of a universe! Maya, it is all Maya!
Goodness! What rubbish we have been talking so long this day! By thinking constantly of ghosts, men become ghosts themselves, while whoever repeats day and night, knowingly or unknowingly, ‘I am the eternal, pure, free, self-illumined Atman (soul)’, verily becomes the knower of Brahman (God).”
Swamiji now affectionately turning to his disciple: “Don’t allow all that worthless nonsense to occupy your mind. Always discriminate between the real (permanent) and the unreal (temporary), and devote yourself heart and soul to the attempt to realize the Atman (soul).
There is nothing higher than this knowledge of the Atman; all else is Maya, mere jugglery. The Atman is the one unchangeable Truth. This I have come to understand, and that is why I try to bring it home to you all.”
Now the story does not end here. About four years after this incident, upon returning back from his historic voyage to the United States, Swamiji once more graced the soil of India at a town called Kumbakonam, situated about 275 kms from Madras.
In this town he once more recognized the ghost tamer, Govinda Chetti, among the crowds who had come to greet him. What followed next is beautifully chronicled in the book Life of Swami Vivekananda by his Eastern and Western Disciples – Volume 2 (page 185).
Now, when the Swami was being welcomed by the people of Kumbakonam, he recognized Govinda Chetti in the crowd, and asked him to meet him later. When the ghost charmer came, the Swami said: “I know you have psychic power. It has given you money and honour; but from the spiritual point of view, are you not where you started? Has your mind progressed towards God?”
The man replied, “No it has not progressed.”
Then the Swami said to him: “If that has not happened, what have you gained by this psychic power? Once you taste the bliss of God, you will see that all these things are nothing.”
Saying this the Swami embraced him. To everybody’s astonishment, the man’s psychic powers disappeared from that day, and in their place came tremendous hankering for God, as a result of which he renounced the world.
Acknowledgement: Many thanks to the Vedanta Society of St. Louis for the above photograph of Swamiji in London.
Read the Full “Ghosts” Series:
|Story #1 – Conversation With Ghosts (of Suicides) – An intriguing incident during which Swami Vivekananda spoke with the spirits of those who had committed suicide.
Do Ghosts Exist or is Seeing Ghosts a Sign of Delusion? (Part 1) – Was Swami Vivekananda hallucinating talking to the spirits of those who had committed suicide? This post examines the answer.
Do Ghosts Exist? Swami Vivekananda’s Own Answer (Part 2) – A disciple once asked Swamiji – “Sir, these ghosts and departed spirits we hear about – are all these true or not? Have you ever seen ghosts?” Read Swami Vivekananda’s incredibly rational and powerful answer!
The Mysterious Pelting of Stones Which Disturbed Swami Brahmananda – Two incidents from the life of Swami Brahmananda, in which a distressed spirit and a luminous saint employ some unusual means to catch his attention.
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