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Swami Vivekananda’s visit to Vrindavan remembered

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Swami Vivekananda’s appearance day was celebrated at several venues in Vrindavan, most notably at the Ramakrishna Sevashram, which is run by the Ramakrishna Mission with its headquarters in Belur, W.B.

VivekanandaSwami Vivekananda was one of India’s pivotal figures. As with so many of the saints of India, he made a pilgrimage to Vrindavan when travel was still not so easy, even though the first train line which went through Hathras and Aligarh had by then been built. In August 1888, when he was 25 and still known as Narendranath, he walked from Agra to Vrindavan. He started his pilgrimage through north India after the disappearance of Paramhamsa Ramkrishna and was deliberating on his plan of action. He was clearly in the grips of a mood of renunciation.

Not long before leaving the world, Swami Vivekananda told the following story about entering the Dham. Although he does not state it specifically, the lesson he takes from entering the Braj Mandal is that all residents, all Brajavasis, regardless of caste, are to be revered:

Real monasticism is not easy to attain. There is no order of life so rigorous as this. If you stumble ever so little, you are hurled down a precipice and are smashed to pieces. One day I was traveling on foot from Agra to Vrindavan. There was not a farthing with me. I was about a couple of miles from Vrindavan when I found a man smoking on the roadside, and I was seized by the desire to smoke.

I said to the man, “Hallo, will you let me have a puff at your chillum?”

He seemed to be hesitating greatly and said, “Sire, I am a sweeper.” Well, there was the influence of old samskaras and I immediately stepped back and resumed my journey without smoking.

I had gone a short distance when the thought occurred to me that I was a sannyasin who had renounced caste, family prestige and everything—and still I drew back as soon as the man declared himself as a sweeper, and I could not smoke at the chillum touched by him.

The thought made me restless at heart; by then I had walked on half a mile. Again I retraced my steps and came to the sweeper whom I found still sitting there. I hastened to tell him, “Do prepare a chillum of tobacco for me, dear friend.” I paid no heed to his objection and insisted on having it. So the man was compelled to prepare a chillum for me. Then I gladly had a puff on it and proceeded to Vrindavan.

When one has embraced the monastic order, one has to test whether one has gone beyond the prestige of caste and birth, etc. It is so difficult to observe the monastic vow in right earnest. There must not be the slightest diversion between one’s words and one’s actions.

In Vrindavan, Swami Vivekananda stayed as a guest right behind Vamshi Bat at Kala Baba Kunj, the house owned by Sri Balaram Bose, a householder disciple of Ramakrishna. His visit to Braj was not without an encounter with the monkeys of the land.

From there he went to take a bath at Radha Kund. He washed his sole loincloth and spread it for drying and began to bathe. In the meantime a monkey took the cloth away. After his bath when Swamiji came out from the pond, he saw the monkey playing with his cloth. He tried to cajole the monkey to get it back, but the monkey only taunted him.

Swamiji was at a loss for what to do. He decided to hide in the underbrush until the monkey got tired and gave up playing with the cloth. Naked, Swamiji began walking towards the woods. He heard someone calling from behind but at first did not pay any heed to it and continued walking. Then someone came running from behind, handed him a saffron cloth and something to eat, and then disappeared within a few moments. When Swamiji returned to the shores of the Kund, however, he found his loincloth lying undamaged exactly where he had spread it. That night he remained there reciting praises of Lord Krishna.

Such stories are common among the Vaishnavas, who are never afraid to attribute the actions of the Brajavasis to Krishna and Radha themselves.

After staying in Vrindavan, Swamiji went to Hathras to catch a train to Haridwar. In those days there was no line through Mathura. But his sense of surrender and renunciation had become so strong that he convinced the railway station master, Sarat Chandra Gupta, to dedicate his life to his mission and become a sannyasi in the Ramkrishna order.

Kala Babu Kunj

Kala Babu Kunj

Vivekananda had already ended his mortal sojourn when the Ramakrishna Mission Sevashram in Vrindavan was started in 1907. A local group of Bengalis were inspired by his message of worshiping God in humanity, to see the jiva as Shiva, and decided to open a small free homeopathic dispensary for poor and needy local people and pilgrims. The first site was on the banks of holy river Yamuna at Kala Babu Kunj. This site was recently (2012) renovated by the Ramakrishna Mission.

Later that year, allopathic departments were added along with four beds, where 26 inpatients and 275 outpatients were treated. The management of the Sevashram was passed over to the Ramakrishna Mission, Belur Math on January 12, 1908. As demands grew, the hospital was first moved to Pani Ghat, where there is still a school being run by the Mission, and finally the present hospital was built on Mathura Road and opened in 1963, which for a long time was the biggest and most important hospital in the district. It is also the site of a nursing college. Even with many hospitals being constructed in Vrindavan, the Ramkrishna Mission Sevashram hospital is still considered by most local people to be the most reliable and trustworthy.

The post Swami Vivekananda’s visit to Vrindavan remembered appeared first on Vrindavan Today.

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