A love of pilgrimage characterizes the Hindi monk. As the proverb has it, “A wondering monk and flowing water do not become dirty, by not remaining in one place for long. Moreover, who does not aspire to visit the places of pilgrimage, made more holy by the visits of the sages as well as others?”
In the second week of April 1890, Vivekananda was compelled to go down from Varanasi to the Baranagar Math in Calcutta. He cast out from his ardent wish to settle down for a time in the holy city, practicing meditation and spiritual disciplines, when he heard the passing away of Balaram Bose…At the Math with his brother monks, he was his old buoyant self. He fired their hearts and minds ablaze with his luminous explanations of the teachings of the Master (Sri Ramakrishna) and the Upanishads…Though Vivekananda devoted a few months to the training of his younger brothers/disciples, yet now and then he felt intensely spurred by the desire to escape, to lose himself in Tapasya in the immensity of the Himalayas. He felt the call, no doubt, of the great mission that awaited him, but its exact contours and the form it would take were still shrouded in mist. How and when the mission would begin and when God would command him to embark upon it were uncertain.
In the meantime, Akhandanananda had returned to the Math and narrated about the splendours of the journey to the shrines of Kedarnath and Badrinath, and about his adventures in the mountains. This was sufficient for Swamiji. He said to him, “You are my man. You have faith! Come, let us be off together.”In his letter to Swami Saradananda on July 6 1890, he wrote, ““I intend shortly, as soon as I get a portion of my fare, to go up to Almora and thence to some place in Garhwal on the Ganga, where I can settle down for a long meditation…I am longing for a flight to Himalayas.” To Saradananda, he again wrote on July 15, “I have my own plans for the future and they shall be a secret.”
Prior to his long journey, he first went to the Holy Mother with Akhandanananda to ask for her blessings. He told her, “Mother, I shall not return until I have attained the highest Gyana.” Before leaving the Math, Swamiji told his brother/disciples, “I shall not return until I acquire such realization that my very touch will transform a man.” To carry out the gigantic work of the Lord, Swamiji needed preparation in solitude.
In the middle of July 1890, Vivekananda, free from all worries and responsibilities, doubtless with a rare joy surging in his heart, set out on his long wanderings to the Himalayas. His intention was not to hurry there by rail, but to travel on foot along the Ganga, begging his food and sleeping under the trees, not harbouring any thought for tomorrow. So with divine music in their hearts and countenances radiating peace and dispassion, the two sanyasins trudged on day after day. Though poorly clad, with only staffs and kamandalu in their hands, the sight of the two wanderers did not go unnoticed or unremembered by the villagers along the way. As for Vivekananda, it was impossible for him to remain inconspicuous anywhere. His pre-eminent characteristic, as Roman Rolland pointed out, “was his kingliness. He was a born king and nobody ever came near him, in India or in America, without paying homage to his majesty. There was a certain dignity and grace about him which set him apart from all others.”
According to Vivekananda, it was here in Uttarakhand that the eternal truth of the Vedas had their first inspiration. This is the land of dreams of our forefathers in which was born Parvati, the Mother of India, he said. It was the earnest desire of Vivekananda that there should be in the silent and sublime retreats of the Himalayas some monasteries. “These mountains are associated with the best memories of our race. If these Himalayas are taken away from the history of religious India there would be very little left behind. Here, therefore, must be one of those centres, not merely of activity but more of calmness of meditation and of peace.”
Vivekananda as a wandering monk on his way to Kumaon came to a place called Kakrighat on the confluence of Kosi and Sual rivers in the year 1890 and meditated under a Peepal tree. Regaining consciousness, he told Akhandanananda, “I have just passed through one of the great moments of my life. Here under this Peepal tree, one of the greatest problems of myths has been solved. I have found the oneness of the macrocosm with the microcosm. In the microcosm of the body everything that is in the macrocosm exists. I have seen the whole universe in an atom.
For the whole day, the Swami was in a high state of mind and discussed his realization with his companion. The fragments of what he wrote in Bengali then read: “The microcosm and the macrocosm are built on the same plane. Just as the individual soul is encased in the living body so is the universal soul in the living Prakriti (Nature).They are the one and they are the same. And it is only by the mental abstraction that one can distinguish them.”
This realization reflected in the lectures he later delivered in the West under the title ‘Cosmos, Microcosm and Macrocosm.’ (To be continued….)(The writer is the member secretary NFSA Commission / Additional Commissioner Consumer Protection/ Member Research Committee, RTI Commission)