In this post are presented 2 beautiful stories from the life of Swami Vivekananda, which capture his tremendous power of memory attained through the practice of brahmacharya.
Story #1 – Swami Vivekananda Memorizes Several Volumes of an Encyclopedia
The following conversation with Swami Vivekananda (Swamiji) was recorded by his disciple Sharat Chandra Chakravarty in the year 1898.
In it Swamiji highlights the extraordinary fact that on account of his practicing strict Brahmacharya (sexual abstinence in thoughts, words and deeds) his entire life, he developed such tremendous powers of mind, that he could effortlessly commit to memory 10 volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in one single reading alone.
At the time this conversation took place Swami Vivekananda was 35 years old.
A few days ago, a new set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica had been bought for the Math (Belur monastery). Seeing the new shining volumes, the disciple said to Swamiji, “It is almost impossible to read all these books in a single lifetime.” He was unaware that Swamiji had already finished ten volumes and had begun the eleventh.
Swamiji: “What do you say? Ask me anything you like from these ten volumes, and I will answer you all.”
The disciple asked in wonder, “Have you read all these books?”
Swamiji: “Why should I ask you to question me otherwise?”
Being examined, Swamiji not only reproduced the sense, but at places the very language of the difficult topics selected from each volume. The disciple, astonished, put aside the books, saying, “This is not within human power!”
Swamiji: “Do you see, simply by the observance of strict Brahmacharya (vow of celibacy in thought, word and deed) all learning can be mastered in a very short time — one has an unfailing memory of what one hears or knows but once. It is owing to this want of continence that everything is on the brink of ruin in our country.”
Story #2 – Swami Vivekananda’s Unique Manner of Reading Books
The following account has been taken from the book The Life of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 1 (Chapter: Wanderings in the Himalayas). Prior to his journey to America, Swami Vivekananda travelled across the length and breadth of India as a wandering monk. At the time of this story, Swamiji was staying in Meerut with some other direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, one of whom was Swami Akhandananda.
At the Swami’s (Swami Vivekananda’s) bidding Akhandananda used to bring books for him from the local library. Once the Swami asked him to bring the works of Sir John Lubbock. Accordingly Akhandananda brought them, one volume each day.
The Swami would finish a volume in a day and return it the next day, saying that he had read it. The librarian argued with Akhandananda that the Swami had surely returned the volume without reading it, and remarked that the latter was only making a show of reading.
Hearing this, the Swami himself went to the librarian and said, “Sir, I have mastered all those volumes: if you have any doubt, you may put any question to me about them.” The librarian then examined the monk, and by doing so became fully satisfied. Great was his astonishment.
Later Akhandananda asked Swamiji how he could do it. The swami replied, “I never read a book word by word. I read sentence by sentence, sometimes even paragraph by paragraph, in a sort of kaleidoscopic form.”
<< PART 1: Power of Brahmacharya – Is Sexual Abstinence Old-Fashioned? | PART 2 |
“Unchaste imagination is as bad as unchaste action. Controlled desire leads to the highest result. Transform the sexual energy into spiritual energy. The stronger this force, the more can be done with it. Only a powerful current of water can do hydraulic mining.”
– Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works, Volume 7.
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