About the Book
The Life of Swami Abhedananda, the Apostle of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, is eventful with his manifold activities and the reputed writer has depicted the authentic and eventful life of the Swami, collecting facts from the Swami's own Diary, Paper-cuttings and from various journals of England, America and other countries, carefully preserved by Swami Abhedananda himself.
The book is published in connection with the auspicious occasion of Swami Abhedananda's Birth Centenary Celebration, which was observed in 1966-67 by the citizens of India. We believe that this recordful life of the Swami will also throw much light upon the life of Swami Vivekananda and upon the Ramakrishna Movement all over the world.
Swami Abhedananda, an apostle of Sri Ramakrishna - Born October 2, 1866 - Spent his early life among the brotherhood in Baranagar monastery near Calcutta, in severe austerity - Travelled barefooted all over India from 1888-1895 - Acquainted with many distinguished savants including prof. Max Mueller and Prof. Paul Deussen - Landed in New York, and took the charge of the Vedanta Society in 1897 - Became acquainted with Prof. William James, Rev. R. H. Newton, Prof. W. Jackson, Prof. Josiah Royce of Harvard, Prof. Hyslop of Columbia, Prof. Lanmann, Prof. G.H. Howison, Prof. Fay, Mr. Edison, the inventor, Dr. Elmer Gates, Ralph Waldo Trine, W.D. Howells, Prof. Herschel C. parker, Dr. Logan, Rev. Bishop Potter, Prof. Shaler, Dr. James, the Chairman of the Cambridge Philosophical Conference and the Professors of Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Berkeley and Clarke Universities - Travelled extensively all through the United States, Canada, Alaska and Mexico - Made frequent trips to Europe, delivering lectures in different parts of the Continent - Crossed the Atlantic for seventeen times - Was appreciated very much for his profundity of scholarship, intellectual brilliance, oratorical talents, charming personality and nobility of character - A short visit to India in 1906 - Returned again to America in 1906- Came back to India at last in 1921 - On his way home joined the Educational Conference, Honolulu - Visited Japan, China, the Philipines, Singapore, Kualalumpur and Rangoon - Started on a long tour and went as far as Tibet - Established centres at Calcutta and Darjeeling - Left his moral frame on September 8, 1939.
The multi-splendoured personality of Swami Abhedananda both as an individual and as a spiritual leader is absorbing. No other disciple of Sri Ramakrishna lived so fully his three score and thirteen years than did this patriot saint of modern India, as Abhedananda was universally known. This study of his life, I must confess, is not a mere narrative. It is more than that. To write the biography of Abhedananda is to write the whole history of the Ramakrishna Age. We know too much about it but too little about its real impact on the social, moral and spiritual regeneration of India. I have therefore sought to examine and elucidate in the first instance certain aspects of this remarkable Age. Secondly, I have discussed at length the history of the Ramakrishna Movement in the West, which forms almost an integral part of the middle period of Abhedananda's life. I hope, however, that the following pages may prove to be of interest from the strictly biographical no less than the historical point of view.
A life divinely ordained and divinely fulfilled such as we witness in the life of Swami Abhedananda, is too important to be treated as a mere symptom of the past. It has a value which is independent of any temporal processes, which is eternal, and must be felt for its own sake. Anecdotes pale into insignificance in this life which was a mighty red-hot furnace with leaping flames of spiritual fire. I therefore make no apology for calling this work a spiritual biography. Swami Abhedananda was one of those great spirits that on occasions stride across the world of pygmies, shedding fresh light, giving new life, and expanding the frontiers of human vision and consciousness. He is the explorer par excellence of that inner realm which was thoroughly and completely explored by his Master, Sri Ramakrishna. His initiation into the Order of Sri Ramakrishna, as we all know, resulted in a transmutation of his personality as a whole- physical, emotional, ideological and spiritual - and laid the foundation of the world teacher that was to come.
In attempting this work, I have followed the principle adopted by the renowned German philosopher, Dr. Hermann Oldenberg, in his famous book, The Life of Buddha. "From the surface", writes Dr. Oldernberg, "Where each phenomenon presents itself a something different from every other, the speculative imagination strives to pierce into depth below, in which lies the unifying bond of all diversity. Man looks for the essence in things and the essence of the essence, for the reality, the truth of all phenomena and the truth of the Truth. This quest of the substance is necessarily a search for unity in all diversity". And so I have tried to capture the essence of Swami Abhedananda's life which is grand and infinitely sweet too.
The vastness of his soul is beyond comprehension of an ordinary man. From personal experience gained by his long and austere course of tapasya initially at the feet of his Master and then after the demise of the later, independently, Abhedananda was able to assert that the direct unmediated knowledge of the Absolute Reality, which is also identical with the illuminated consciousness of the spiritual unity of man and the universe, is the core of all religious disciplines as understood by Rishis and Prophets who visualized and gave expression to the great truth co-eternal with God, and proclaimed with unshaken confidence that all the apparent diversions of our experiences are ultimately nothing but Sat-Chit-Anandam. His whole life was a clear manifestation of the working of the gospel of truth and a crystal clear self-expression of a great soul thoroughly impregnated with the Divine Power, which is dynamic in its character and which is equally operative in the whole cosmic process as well as in every unit of energy and in every unit of phenomenal existence, the difference being one of degree and not of essence or kind. This Divine Power, kindled by the touch of his Master, made its appearance in a concentrated form in the life of the great personality of which we want to have a glimpse in this treatise.
It is not the intention of the present writer to deal with the life of Abhedananda as an isolated factor to India's religious life, for his life was a timely re-interpretation and a brilliant embodiment of synthetic spiritualism which characterized the Ramakrishna Age and which India and the world need so much in the present day. I see in him the regeneration and re-awakening of the essentially spiritual view of human life and mundane phenomena that have cast a halo of glory about Mother India from time immemorial.
In this book I have made no statement without authority which I believe to be trustworthy and I am satisfied that this narrative is substantially accurate. I take this opportunity to thank the authorities of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, who have encouraged me to write this book, especially to my esteemed friend, Swami Prajnanananda, who gave me proper guidance and the unpublished diaries of Swami Abhedananda. I am also grateful to him for helping me in writing the last chapter, "Abhedananda and Vivekananda", a comparative study, though in truth, these two Apostles are not in any way comparable to each other.
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