A Play by Bill Davis
Music by John Schlenck
Cast of Characters
(in order of first speaking)
Swami Vivekananda (Swamiji)
Josephine (“Joe”) MacLeod
Frank (Francis) Leggett
An agnostic lady
This play is based on historical fact but includes elements from my imagination in order to make the action flow. In places, for the sake of dramatic effect, I’ve put together in one scene events that happened on different days. I’ve also invented dialogue to fill gaps and inserted songs that seemed appropriate. Most but not all of the words of Swamiji are from historical sources. Sometimes his feelings, if not exact words, are gleaned from his letters. The golfing scene actually happened in 1895, but I put it in the Great Summer so that it could be enjoyed as part of this play.
Sheet music of songs is available from the composer. Email email@example.com
Narrator: It is early morning, August 28, 1899. Swamiji and Swami Turiyananda have just docked in New York City. They are met by Miss Maud Stumm, a young artist who has come down from Ridgely Manor; Mrs. Coulston, who is the acting treasurer of the New York Vedanta Society; and Mr. Sydney Clarke. Mrs. Coulston speaks.
Mrs. Coulston: Welcome, Swamiji. Welcome to New York.
Swamiji: It’s so good to see you–and you, Maud. Who is this young man?
Maud: Oh, Swamiji, you remembered my name! This is Mr. Sydney Clarke, who has come to help you with your luggage.
Swamiji: Thank you, Mr. Clarke. Your help is much appreciated. This is Swami Turiyananda. He is here to help with the work in America.
Mrs. Coulston: I’m very glad to meet you, Swami. There is certainly much work to be done. Oh, Swamiji, I can’t tell you the joy it gives me to see you again!
Maud: Your boat was scheduled to arrive at ten, but you’re two hours early. Miss MacLeod and the Leggetts aren’t here yet.
Narrator: Mrs. Coulston speaks quietly to Maud Stumm.
Mrs. Coulston: Swamiji looks so tired and ill. Going to Ridgely is just what he needs.
Maud: Swamiji, may I carry that bottle for you?
Swamiji: No, thanks. I’ll keep this with me.
Maud: What’s in it?
Swamiji: This is a present for Joe. It’s a curry sauce that I brought especially for her.
Narrator: By the time everyone’s luggage is finally unloaded and sent off to the Leggetts’ town house, it is 9:30 a.m. Mr. Clarke rushes off to work. Just then Josephine MacLeod, her sister Betty, and Betty’s husband, Frank Leggett, arrive. Joe speaks.
Joe (in dismay): Swamiji, you’re already here! Excuse us for not being here to greet you when you arrived. I was hoping to see you walk down the gangplank with that special walk of yours. I wanted to see your face break into a smile when you spied us.
Swamiji: I was pleased to see Mrs. Coulston and Maud when I arrived. When we arrived in England, there wasn’t a soul to greet us. I wondered if this meant the English work had fallen apart. As it turned out, that’s exactly what it meant.
Betty: Well, here in America we’ve been counting the hours until you arrive. We’ve missed you so. It’s so good to see you.
Frank: Welcome to New York. I do hope you had a good voyage.
Swamiji: Yes, the voyage was very good. It does my heart good to be met by such loyal friends after the frigid reception in England. How is Mrs. Bull?
Joe: She so wanted to be here! But do you remember her daughter Olea? She is very sick, and Sara is nursing her in their Boston home. They will both come to Ridgely Manor as soon as Olea is well.
Frank: Indeed. Let’s go over to our house, where you can freshen up. Then we’ll set out for Ridgely. I’ve arranged for our caretakers to meet us with two buggies at the Binnewater station at six p.m.
Swamiji: Joe, when we get to Binnewater, this special bottle will be yours.
Joe: The wrapping looks so tattered! It’s come a long way, but thank you. What is it?
Swamiji: It’s a surprise. Now, Maud and Mrs. Coulston, don’t ruin the surprise.
Narrator: The group has finally arrived at Ridgely Manor. The horses are trotting up to the Manor House.
Swamiji: Everything looks even more beautiful now than I remember it from four years ago. Have you made any changes since then?
Frank: You see on the left over there? I’ve put in a nine-hole golf course. How would you like to join me in a round of golf?
Swamiji: Show me how to play and I’ll be glad to join you.
Frank: All right, we’ll play some day.
Narrator: The buggies are now at the Manor House.
Betty: Swamiji and Swami Turiyananda, let me show you to your quarters. You’ll be in the small cottage over there. Would you care to walk over, or should we go back in the buggy?
Swamiji: To tell the truth, I’m exhausted from the trip. Let’s take the buggy.
Narrator: They arrive at the small cottage. Betty takes them up the stairs to their rooms.
Betty: Swamiji, you’ll be in this bedroom with the bay window. And Swami Turiyananda, your room is right here.
Narrator: Betty leaves them to themselves.
Swamiji: Brother Hari, my body needs rest, but so does my mind. Enough of reason! (Pause) This thought reminds me of a song our Master sang.
O Mother, make me mad with Thy love!
What need have I of knowledge or reason?
Make me drunk with Thy love’s Wine;
O Thou who stealest Thy devotees’ hearts,
Drown me deep in the Sea of Thy love!
Here in this world, this madhouse of Thine,
Some laugh, some weep, some dance for joy;
Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Gauranga–
All are drunk with the Wine of Thy love.
O Mother, when shall I be blessed, by joining their blissful company?
Narrator: A few days later, Swamiji, Swami Turiyananda, Frank, and Betty’s 20-year-old son Hollister, from her first marriage, are having breakfast together in the Manor House. The little daughter of Frank and Betty, three-year-old France, comes in with some flowers in her hand. She gives them to Swamiji.
Swamiji: In India we give flowers to our teachers. Let me bless you:
Maatrideva Bhava; Pitrideva Bhava; Chiranjivi Bhava; Kirtimaan Bhava.
Frank: What does that mean?
Swamiji: May your mother be your God; may your father be your God. May you be long lived; may your good work spread all over.
Frank: Your last two blessings are wonderful, but I hardly think Betty and I should be considered God.
Swamiji: In India children are taught to see the divine in their parents.
Frank: That’s certainly a new and inspiring thought. France, say “Thank you, Swami.”
France: Thank you, Smami [sic].
Swamiji: You’re welcome, my child. (Pause) Already I am feeling much better. Francis, after breakfast I would like to show you some gymnastic tricks I learned as a boy.
Frank: All right. You’ve got my curiosity up.
Narrator: After finishing breakfast, they go into Frank’s study and close the door.
Swamiji: Here, I’ll lie on my back. Now you rest your torso on my feet.
Narrator: Swamiji lies on his back on the floor and raises his legs. Frank places the full weight of his body on Swamiji’s upraised feet, so that Swamiji is supporting him, holding him in the air, parallel to the floor. Suddenly the door bursts open, and Joe comes in unexpectedly. Swamiji is embarrassed because his lower legs are exposed, and Frank goes flying through the air.
Swamiji (angrily): Joe, this is a man’s drawing room. Why didn’t you knock? (Softening, Swamiji laughs.) Come, Joe, let’s pick up what’s left of Francis.
Narrator: Frank gets to his feet and brushes off his clothes.
Frank: Well that was fun–at least at first! How about playing golf now?
Swamiji: Certainly. Brother Hari, Hollister, would you like to join us?
Swami Turiyananda: No, thanks. I’d like to read.
Hollister: I’d definitely like to play.
Frank: Swami, would you like a golfing outfit?
Swamiji: No, thanks. My robes will be fine.
Frank: You two start. I’ll be right along.
Narrator: Hollister carries a bag of clubs and they walk over to the first tee.
Swamiji: What is that flag fluttering over there?
Hollister: That’s the first green. This is a par-four hole. That means you have two shots to put the ball onto the green and two more to sink your putt. The hole is where the flag stands. Usually beginners will take seven or eight shots altogether. Here, let me take a shot and show you how it’s done.
Narrator: Hollister takes a driver, swings, and hits the ball straight, about two-thirds the distance to the green.
Swamiji: I will make you a bet. I shall put the ball in the hole with one stroke.
Hollister: You must be joking. I’ve got 50 cents on me. That 50 cents says you can’t do it.
Swamiji: I bet a dollar I can.
Narrator: At this moment Frank joins them.
Frank: What are you two plotting?
Hollister: The Swami bet me a dollar against my 50 cents that he can hit a hole-in-one.
Frank: Swami, what you are proposing is an impossibility even for good players.
Swamiji: What is your bet?
Frank: Ten dollars says you will fail.
Swamiji: Hollister, stand by the hole, but not too close.
Narrator: While Hollister is taking his position, Swamiji pulls up the sleeves of his robe and takes a few practice swings. Finally he looks intently at the flag and swings. It is a very long, straight shot. The ball rolls onto the green and then right into the cup.
Hollister (shouting): Oh, my God! He did it! A hole-in-one!
Frank: I’m speechless. (Pause.) Has your yoga got something to do with it, Swami?
Swamiji: Well, this sport doesn’t seem too difficult. I don’t use yoga for such a trifling thing. What I did I will tell you in two sentences. First, I measured the distance by sight, and I know the strength of my biceps. Second, I told my mind I’d be richer by ten dollars and a half. And then I swung.
Narrator: Everyone is at the table in the dining room for the mid-day meal. Frank and Betty are sitting at opposite ends of the long table. Swamiji is sitting at Betty’s right, Swami Turiyananda at Swamiji’s right, and Swami Abhedananda at Betty’s left.
Frank: Swami, have you heard what wonderful work Swami Abhedananda is doing in New York?
Swamiji: Please tell me about it.
Frank: His lectures are packed. We had to rent a larger hall to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend. There is so much enthusiasm that in April he gave the vows of brahmacharya to six students.
Swamiji: I knew I could count on Brother Kali to build up the work here in New York.
Swami Abhedananda: One of the brahmacharis is Dutch. I gave him the name Gurudas. I think he is particularly promising.
Swami Turiyananda: I look forward to meeting him.
Joe: I want to add my own word that Swami Abhedananda is doing wonderful work here.
Swami Abhedananda: Thank you, Miss MacLeod, and you, Mr. Leggett, for your kind words.
Frank: Before Swami Abhedananda arrived, Swami Saradananda was here in New York. What a nice man, and what a wonderful speaker! He visited Ridgely a few years ago.
Betty: Pardon me for interrupting, but I do believe there will be ice cream for dessert.
Swamiji: Ah, wonderful.
Narrator: Maud whispers to her neighbor.
Maud: Look at the smile of expectancy and pure delight on Swamiji’s face! Such a smile is rarely seen on anybody over sixteen.
Narrator: Chocolate ice cream is served for dessert.
Swamiji: This is delicious. I love chocolate. You know why? Because I too am chocolate.
Joe: What about strawberries? Do you also like strawberries?
Swamiji: I’ve never tasted them.
Joe: Why, Swami, we have been serving you strawberries every day for the past week!
Swamiji: Yes, but they are covered with cream and sugar. Even pebbles taste good that way.
Betty: Would you like another helping of ice cream?
Swamiji: Mother, yes, I would. (Pause.) I’ve written a poem for the two of you–you and Frankincense, the heavenly pair–and have been waiting for the right moment to present it. This is as good a moment as any.
One circle more the spiral path of life ascends,
And Time’s restless shuttle – running back and fro
Through maze of warp and woof of shining
Threads of life – spins out a stronger piece.
Hand in hand they stand – and try
To fathom depths whence springs eternal love,
Each in other’s eyes,
And find no power holds o’er that age
But brings the youth anew to them,
And time – the good, the pure, the true.
Frank: Thank you very much for this. This poem contains such good wishes.
Joe: This is a bit of a non sequitur, but I want to share what I’ve been thinking. You know about the Swami’s Pine at Greenacre, Maine. He taught and meditated under it.
Swamiji: I loved that pine. I thought of it as a sage in deep samadhi. I even slept under it.
Joe: I would like to take a seedling from under that pine and plant it here at Ridgely so that we will always feel Swamiji’s presence.
Betty: That’s a great idea.
Narrator: A servant enters and whispers something in Frank’s ear.
Frank: It’s so wonderful that the three of you swamis have graced our house by your presence. I would like to preserve the memory of this occasion by having a photograph taken. The photographer I hired for that purpose has just arrived from Kingston. After our meal, let’s all go out on the back porch to pose for the photograph.
Narrator: Sister Nivedita arrived at Ridgely Manor on September 17th. It is a few days later. Betty and Nivedita are sitting together in the morning room.
Betty: A few days after we arrived, I went over to the little cottage to see if everything was all right. I discovered that Swami Turiyananda had put his mattress on the floor. I asked him, “Swami, is there anything wrong with the bed?” He answered, “No, no, the bed is fine. But, you see, I can’t bring myself to sleep on the same level with Swamiji – so I have put the mattress on the floor.”
Nivedita: What devotion he has for Swamiji!
Betty: This rest here has been wonderful for Swamiji. He loves being here with his disciple. Swami Turiyananda watches his every gesture.
Nivedita: When you say “his disciple,” what do you mean?
Betty: Isn’t Swami Turiyananda the disciple of Swamiji?
Nivedita: Well, in fact, no. They are brother disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. It’s just that Sri Ramakrishna always taught all his disciples to look up to Swamiji–and with good reason. We know how great he is.
Betty: This puts his devotion to Swamiji in a whole new light. It’s not the natural respect that one has for one’s master, but the recognition of his greatness.
Narrator: Maud and Joe join Betty and Nivedita.
Betty: Joe, Maud — more and more I am realizing Swamiji’s greatness.
Joe: Swamiji is blessed and has his new message ready. He said, “All there is in life is character.” He told me that Buddhas and Christs do more harm than good—for mankind is trying to imitate them—instead of developing its own character. Oh it is grand and thrills one! He said, “In one’s hour of need one stands alone.” He is indeed a Prophet with a new message!
Maud: There is a compelling majesty in his presence and carriage that cannot be imitated or described. Yesterday at sunset I saw him striding across the wide lawn with his flame-colored robes draped about him. What a figure he was. His stride came nearer to the poet’s description of a “step that spurned the earth” than anything I ever expect to see again.
Narrator: At this moment Swamiji bursts into the room.
Swamiji: There is nothing more important than for people to enjoy liberty! The fourth of July is the most important holiday in this country, for it celebrates freedom and stands as a beacon for all mankind, lying in shackles. Not just political shackles, but the shackles of ego! Let me recite a poem called “To the Fourth of July.”
Behold, the dark clouds melt away,
That gathered thick at night, and hung
So like a gloomy pall above the earth!
Before thy magic touch, the world
Awakes. The birds in chorus sing.
The flowers raise their star-like crowns –
Dew-set, and wave thee welcome fair.
The lakes are opening wide in love
Their hundred thousand lotus-eyes
To welcome thee, with all their depth.
All hail to thee, thou Lord of Light!
A welcome new to thee today,
O Sun! Today thou sheddest Liberty!
Bethink thee how the world did wait,
And search for thee through time and clime.
Some gave up home and love of friends,
And went in quest of thee, self-banished,
Through dreary oceans, through primeval forests,
Each step a struggle for their life or death;
Then came the day when work bore fruit,
And worship, love, and sacrifice,
Fulfilled, accepted, and complete.
Then thou, propitious, rose to shed
The light of Freedom on mankind.
Move on, O Lord, in thy resistless path!
Till thy high noon o’erspreads the world,
Till every land reflects thy light,
Till men and women, with uplifted head,
Behold their shackles broken, and
Know, in springing joy, their life renewed!
Joe: Oh, Swamiji, you composed this poem while you, Sara, Margot and I were in Kashmir together. And you recited it for us on the fourth of July.
Narrator: It is afternoon. Swamiji has been napping in the Great Hall stretched out on the green couch. He hears the clop-clop of horses coming up to the main entrance. He gets up and goes to the door. Sister Nivedita is in the carriage with Betty Leggett.
Swamiji: Hello, you two. Where have you been gadding about?
Betty: I took Margot for a ride in the countryside. I showed her the sights.
Nivedita: The waterfall in High Falls is lovely. And what a pretty view of the mountains! The stone houses are sweet. They remind me of Ireland, where I grew up.
Swamiji: I’m glad you enjoyed yourselves. Margot, I’d like to show you something. Excuse us for a minute, Mother. I’d like to talk with Margot. Let’s go into the sitting room next to the Great Hall. (Pause.) I’ve had certain realizations while meditating under the oak. I’ve tried to capture them in a poem. I call it “Peace.” Here it is. I don’t think Betty would understand it. Could you read it out?
Behold, it comes in might,
The power that is not power,
The light that is in darkness,
The shade in dazzling light.
Behold, it comes in might,
The power that is not power,
The light that is in darkness,
The shade in dazzling light.
It is joy that never spoke,
And grief unfelt, profound,
Immortal life unlived,
Eternal death unmourned.
It is not joy nor sorrow,
But that which is between,
It is not night nor morrow,
But that which joins them in.
It is sweet rest in music
And pause in sacred art,
The silence between speaking;
Between two fits of passion –
It is the calm of heart.
It is beauty never seen,
And love that stands alone;
It is song that lives unsung,
And knowledge never known.
It is death between two lives
And lull between two storms,
The void whence rose creation,
And that where it returns.
To it the tear-drop goes
To spread the smiling form.
It is the goal of life,
And peace, its only home.
Sister Nivedita: That’s very nice… the paradox of existence. Peace lies at the heart of this paradox.
Swamiji: Well, I’m glad you like it, but you think everything I do is good. I think I’ll submit all my writings to missionary journals. They’ll give me a fairer criticism, since their bias is in the opposite direction.
Narrator: It is evening. The air is lovely. Along with Swamiji, most of the people staying at Ridgely Manor and some other guests are sitting around the fireplace in the Great Hall of the Manor House. The front and back doors are open. One can hear the pulsating sounds of the summer night. The flickering gaslights illumine the room. All are fascinated by Swamiji’s words. Swamiji continues.
Swamiji: What do I care if Mohammed was a good man, or Buddha! Does that alter my own goodness or evil? Let us be good for our own sake on our own responsibility.
Maud: Swami, I don’t agree with you there.
Swamiji: No? Then it is not for you.
Frank: O, but that is where I find you true.
Swamiji: Ah, then it was for you. However, I have a new message for both East and West. Yes! The older I grow, the more everything seems to me to lie in manliness. This is my new gospel. Do even evil like a man! Develop your character. The principle of my Master, Sri Rama-krishna, was: first form character, first earn spirituality, and results will come of themselves. His favorite illustration was “When the lotus opens, the bees come of their own accord to seek the honey.” (CW 4:177.)
Agnostic lady: You speak of earning spirituality, but pardon me. I have to admit that I am an agnostic. What proof is there that there is such a thing as true spirituality, and not just a social convention that we call “spirituality”?
Swamiji: I’m glad you spoke your mind. I too was tormented for many years with the spirit of agnosticism. But let me tell you: Spirituality can be communicated just as truly as I can give you a flower. This is true in the most literal sense. This idea is very old in India and finds illustration in the West in the belief in apostolic succession.
I’ll tell you more about my Master. People came by the thousands to see and hear this wonderful man who spoke in a patois every word of which was forceful and instinct with light. For it is not what is spoken, much less the language in which it is spoken, but it is the personality of the speaker that dwells in everything he says that carries weight. Every one of us feels this at times. We hear the most splendid orations, go home, and forget them all. At other times we hear a few words in the simplest language, and they enter into our lives and produce lasting results. All teaching implies giving and taking–the teacher gives and the taught receives–but the one must have something to give and the other must be open to receive. (CW 4:177-178.)
Joe: Swamiji, coming back to “manliness”: I’m not quite sure I understand what you mean by that word. Do you mean masculinity?
Swamiji: Definitely not. Let me recite you a poem that illustrates my ideas about manliness.
The Song of the Free
The wounded snake its hood unfurls,
The flame stirred up doth blaze,
The desert air resounds the call
Of heart-struck lion’s rage:
The cloud puts forth its deluge strength
When lightning cleaves its breast,
When the soul is stirred
to its inmost depth
Great ones unfold their best!
Let eyes grow dim and heart grow faint
And friendship fail and love betray,
Let fate its hundred horrors send.
And clotted darkness block the way—
All nature wear one angry frown
To crush you out—still know, my soul,
You are Divine. March on and on,
Nor right nor left, but to the goal!
Nor angel I, nor man nor brute,
Nor body, mind, nor he nor she,
The books do stop in wonder mute
To tell my nature—I am He!
Before the sun, the moon the earth,
Before the stars or comets free
Before e’en Time has had its birth –
I was, I am and I will be
The beauteous earth, the glorious sun,
The calm sweet moon, the spangled sky,
Causation’s laws do make them run,
They live in bonds, in bonds they die –
And mind its mantle, dreamy net,
Casts o’er them all and holds them fast.
In warp and woof of thought are set
Earth, hells and heavens, or worst or best.
Know these are but the outer crust—
All space and time, all effect, cause,
I am beyond all sense, all thought,
The Witness of the Universe!
Not one nor many, ’til but One;
And thus in me all ones I have
I cannot hate, I cannot shun
Myself from me—I can but love!
From dreams awake,
from bonds be free!
Be not afraid. This mystery, My shadow, cannot frighten me!
Know once for all that I am He!
Narrator: Swamiji continues to speak for some time after that.
Josephine MacLeod will later write about this evening: “One evening he was so eloquent, his voice becoming so soft and seemingly far away; when the evening was over, we all separated without even saying good-night to each other. Such a holy quality pervaded.” Later that same evening, Betty hears weeping from the room where the agnostic lady is staying.
Betty (knocking at the door): Agnes, are you all right?
Agnostic lady: Betty, please come in.
Betty (entering the room): Oh, Agnes, why are you weeping?
Agnostic lady: That man has given me eternal life. I never wish to hear him again.
Betty: That’s wonderful, but why wouldn’t you want to hear him again?
Agnostic lady: Just as he said, he gave me a flower, a wonderful flower. It was not his words so much, but the conviction in his words, that overwhelmed me and has given me faith. I don’t need to hear him again. It would be superfluous. How can any moment live up to the beauty of this moment? One cannot repeat a perfect moment. I’m so happy I have to weep.
Betty: God bless you, my friend.
Narrator: Sister Nivedita and Swamiji are walking together down the central path toward the old spreading oak where Swamiji likes to meditate. It is mid-October, and the changing leaves are brilliant.
Nivedita: Oh, how beautiful are the colors of fall! I’m in absolute rapture, surrounded by all this beauty.
Swamiji: Yes, but beauty is not external, but already in the mind. These fall leaves must thank us. It is we who give them all their beauty. And if all this Maya is so beautiful, think of the wondrous beauty of the Reality behind it. (Pause.) I’ve seen that beauty. It is beyond the ability of the human tongue to describe. The sight of it makes one drunk with joy.
Nivedita: I’m sure that is the case. But this external beauty, puny by comparison though it is, is also quite wonderful.
Swamiji: Let me tell you something. You must hold your soul firm against the perpetual appeal of the senses. Realize that the rapture of autumn trees is as truly sense-enjoyment as a comfortable bed or a table dainty. Also, hate the silly praise and blame of people. (Pause.)Look, there is the abode of bliss – exceedingly beautiful, effulgent, and beyond the ocean of worldly existence.
Look! There is the abode of bliss –
Exceedingly beautiful, effulgent,
And beyond the ocean of worldly existence.
For those who go there stricken with grief,
All miseries will be washed away.
There they will gain peace in heart and realize divine love.
There many seers and saints and sages are absorbed in meditation.
See them drinking immortal nectar,
They have forgotten the universe.
There the angels are singing beautif’ly in unending adoration.
Millions of moons and stars are dancing ceaselessly in divine joy.
Nivedita: Oh, that was heavenly.
Swamiji: Now I’ll bring us back to earth. Let’s visit the Whitmarsh children just down the road at the Inn.
Narrator: Swamiji and Nivedita walk up the steps to the veranda, then over to the door, which is open.
Swamiji: Karl, Kitty! Come out and play.
Narrator: Karl and Kitty come out and see Nivedita. Karl asks:
Karl: Who is this?
Swamiji: This is Sister Nivedita.
Karl: Hello, Sister. What shall we play today?
Swamiji: How about a race between you and Kitty? Run from the main road back to here. I’ll give the winner a penny. All right?
Karl: Kitty should get a head start, since she’s a year younger than me.
Nivedita: Karl, you’re very considerate. How old are you?
Karl: I’m three and Kitty is two. What does “considerate” mean?
Nivedita: It means you’re very thoughtful and fair.
Swamiji: I agree with Karl. Kitty should start halfway down the hill. Is that fair, Karl?
Karl: Yes, I think I can still win, but I’m not sure.
Kitty: I’m going to win. I want that penny.
Narrator: Kitty and Karl run up to their starting points.
Kitty: Let’s go.
Swamiji: On your mark, get set, GO!
Narrator: Karl passes Kitty and wins. Kitty begins to cry. Swamiji sits on the steps of the front veranda, takes Kitty on his lap and rocks her.
Swamiji: Was it so terrible to lose? Here, I’ll give Karl a penny for winning and you a penny for trying so hard to win.
Narrator: Swami Turiyananda has left. Swamiji has moved back into the room on the second floor of the Manor House, where he had stayed twice in 1895. Sara Bull has finally arrived at Ridgely Manor. On Thursday evening, November 2nd, Swamiji comes down and finds Nivedita and Sara Bull in earnest talk.
Swamiji: You two like to see me gay and bright, but the truth is that I’m deeply troubled. I’m troubled by the defection of my English disciples, by treachery, and by my failing health. It’s been foretold that I have but two years left. I’m a sannyasi. I mind no loss, but I can still be hurt through personal love. Treachery cuts deep. I am guided and protected in my work, but all that is personal is turned to ashes. It is a comfort that I can confide my sorrow to the two of you.
Narrator: Later, Sara Bull comes to Nivedita’s room with tears in her eyes.
Sara: Margot, we must use this time that he is here to surround him with peace.
Narrator: The next day Swamiji is radiant, but on the following day his mood turns dark again. He reveals to Nivedita the anguish of his heart, and she is so upset that she flees to her room to cry. Now he follows her and stands at her door.
Swamiji: All my life I have been reciting my hatred of fame and wealth, but only now am I beginning to understand what it really means. It is becoming unbearable. And so to Thee – Ramakrishna – (pause) I betake myself. For in Thy Feet alone is the refuge of man. I have lost all – lost all for you Westerners! I find this poem consoling.
Hold yet awhile, Strong Heart,
Not part a lifelong yoke
Though blighted looks the present, future gloom.
An age it seems since you and I began our
March up hill or down.
Sailing smooth o’er
Seas that are so rare—
Thou nearer unto me, than oft-times I myself—
Proclaiming mental moves before they were!
Thy pulse so timed to mine,
Thou perfect note of thoughts, however fine—
Shall we now part, Recorder, say?
In thee is friendship, faith,
For thou didst warn when evil thoughts were brewing—
And though, alas, thy warning thrown away,
Went on the same as ever—good and true.
Narrator: A letter has arrived from a Mrs. Blodgett stating that Taylor MacLeod, the elder brother of Betty and Joe, lies seriously ill, perhaps dying, at her home in Los Angeles where she is nursing him.
Joe: I must go and be by his side.
Narrator: Within two hours she is packed and the carriage is at the door.
Swamiji: Joe! Get up some classes and I will come.
Narrator: Then he raises his hand makes this blessing:
Sarve bhavantu sukhinah, sarve shantu niraamayah, sarve bhadraani pashyantu, maa kaschid dukhabhaag bhavet.
May all be happy. May all be able to overcome the difficulties of life. May all have right understanding and the strength to follow that into practice. May all be able to reach their divine destiny.
BILL DAVIS, a disciple of Swami Pavitrananda, came to The Vedanta Society of NY in 1972. After a career as a psychologist, he retired in 2007. Bill now lives at Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely and serves as a handyman; he also still helps out monthly at the Vedanta Society of NY.
JOHN SCHLENCK, a composer of music, is Associate Editor of American Vedantist and Secretary-Treasurer of Vedanta West Communications. He is a resident member and Secretary of the Vedanta Society of New York.