First Impressions of Greatness

As a child, I remember, I was very fond of book on Swami Vivekananda that I had. It was a book we had bought from Kanyakumari, where we had gone when I was four years old! Of course, I do not remember having gone there or bought it, but I was told it was so afterwards 🙂

The book had a strange feel. Nothing extra-ordinary. It was printed on paper with rough texture. There were some sketches on almost all the pages and the shade of all the pages was a mix of brown, faded yellow/orange and white. Don’t know why but the appearance itself used to create an environment around me in which I felt touched. In very simple Hindi the book had described the life of Swami Vivekananda. Can’t claim to remember all of it well now, but then I had read it ‘n’ number of times. There was something in that story, that always inspired me. Even today, I can not point out what exactly made it happen.

Bits and pieces of the story, which I still remember and which helped in building that feeling, that inspiration –

The book started with a chapter on who Ram Krishna Paramhansa and Vivekananda really were. It talked of Saptarishi (Seven Saints). The seven saints were deep in their meditation, when a very attractive and healthy child came there. He went without hesitation to one of them, put his arms around the saint and told him that he was going to the earth and the saint would have to come with him. The saint smiled, which meant an acceptance. Now, I forget who was Vivekananda of the child and the saint and who was Ram Krishna Paramhansa, but they were the two people. I also do not remember whom the child was supposed to represent. I wonder how I would look at the story, if I read it with an adult mind, but as a child it awed me.

Then it went on to describe the childhood of Vivekananda. He was very naughty, but very generous towards the poor. He would defy the concept of ghosts that an old man in the neighbourhood used to keep the children away from playing around a tree near his house. He would knowingly climb the tree just to see if there is a ghost! And then his famous question, “Have you seen God?” to all the potential gurus he scouted for. The argument for this question was put so simply. Only if someone has seen Kashi, can he/she be expected to show you the same. Then how can someone who has not seen God be expected to help you meet Him?! (Guess whom all shall I want to ask this question today! :-D)

Another interesting incident of his life was that of Dakshineshwar, when he was unable to ask anything materialistic from Goddess for himself. It intrigues me even now.

There were two other intriguing remarks in that book. One was by Ram Krishna Paramhansa for Vivekananda, which said something like this, “The day he would come to know who he is, he would no longer remain here!”

And finally just before taking his Samadhi, Vivekananda was pacing up and down a room. He didn’t look his usual calm self. He was apparently heard as saying something like, “If there was another Vivekananda, he would have understood what this Vivekananda did!”

I wonder what these statemements are supposed to mean! Have got some vague impressions, but I would leave the question open here.

With all this haphazard description I have given above :-), I would like to conclude, without giving any logic, that the book and hence Vivekananda was the first impression I got of what “being great” is. It was hazy then, it’s hazy even today. But it was something. Today, I am not sure if greatness means anything at all. But even then that first impression was something that does not go out of my mind.


2 thoughts on “First Impressions of Greatness

  1. IMO, When we learn about something strange, by human nature we try to empathize with that.

    It’s very usual to get inspired by someone great, and in general there is an impetus of some sense. Probably, someone told you that Mr. X is great and you should learn from his life, and then you already have this book. How would you react as a child? Read the book and get Inspired by even the book. The difference of the book seems evident after then. I remember how differently I used to view the books on Geeta, Ramayana, etc. I would say, that forced me to think that hard bound books are about great people and story.
    Similarly, my mom used to do some puja on thursday and that book was of a different shape. I’d have heard the story many a times, although today I don’t remember it exactly, let me be very frank – it is probably just a story about a king who does some good things. But, I used to get a very different feel.
    It seems foolish today, but once in my life I had so much faith in god that I used to believe in God, chants and their power. Something happended, and today I’m an atheist. (Events do change life)

  2. Vivekananda was a great saint.

    The erroneous behaviour of Vivekanand before the last voyage is quite understandable. Of everything first and last moment is something special. Especially the very last moment. He can’t be calm at the last moment. Because, his whole energy is gearing up to be mearged in the infinite. It’s like when you start a bike, you have to take gear. In village you would see small kerosine lamp. When it has oil the flame is calm and static. But when it has last drop of oil left – that time flame is turbulent and it is erratically extinguished by a sould. Similar thing happens at the time of death. Just before death body is fully energetic. One can feel fresh. Elated. Because body energy is gearing up for the last voyoge. This is particualry true for great saints. May not be so true for normal people. Moment just before death is special.

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