HIS LIFE AND TEACHINGS
IN THE NEW WORLD
The Swami left Belur on the 13th of October 1903. He sailed from Bombay on the 15th, went by way of Naples and reached New York on Wednesday, the 25th of November. During the seven years that Swami Abhedanandaji was in charge in New York the work grew rapidly. It became many-sided and enormousous. He could not cope with it alone. Moreover, he had calls from many other cities in America to deliver lectures and to establish Vedanta centres there. Europe also claimed his presence; for several months at a stretch he had to be away from America. To assist him in his work in New York and to take his place there, while he was away,was the function allotted to Swami Nirmalananda. Setting himself to work in his own masterly way, he won the esteem and affection of all who met him. Every one was confident that he would piove an invaluable addition to the work in that country.(The Prabuddha Bharata, Vol. IX, p. 34.) More practical than the practical American he introduced the practice of daily meditation. He also organised a Sanscrit class. The earliest available report of his actual work was in connection with the annual memorial service in honour of Swami Vivekananda, held by the Society in January 1904. It has the following: "Swami Nirmalananda next read a paper, especially interesting to all who listened, because it gave many facts concerning: Swami Vivekananda unknown to his American friends and described in a picturesque manner some of the events of the Swami's early life as a Sanyasin when he was preparing for the great mission later achieved by him." (P. B. IX 93). He also read some of Swami's (Vivekananda's) favourite passages from the, Vedas. Winding up the day's proceedings Swami Abhedananda spoke of the value of the work of the Swami Nirmalananda and of the new impetus he had already given in certain directions. At the celebration of the Birthday of Sri Ramakrishna he led devotional exercise from half past three to five in the evening.
Soon after his arrival in New York he assumed, in a great measure, the direction of the Yoga class at the Society and left Swami Abhedananda free to accept invitations to lecture elsewhere. In 1904 "for the first time since the Society's establishment, there was no break in the work throughout the summer, as Swami Nirmalananda remained constant in charge and carried on the Yoga classes without interruption. This was a source of great help and satisfaction to the students who were unable to leave the city and still more to those who, residing elsewhere, were in New York only for short periods " (P. B. X, 16). It resulted in a "visible quickening of the community spirit among all the members, manifest in an increase of activity and enthusiasm on the part of every one".
Early in 1905 Swami Abhedananda was invited to Canada to deliver lectures. During his absence the Swami took the charge of the New York work. It was then that he "delivered his first Sunday lecture. The subject chosen by him was the 'Vedic conception of God' and the clearness and force of his thought as well as the ease and fluency with which it was expressed disproved conclusively the claim he had always made that he was not a public speaker". (P. B. X, 76.) Eminent Scientists also used to attend his classes. Professor Parker of New York was one such. He had the greatest admiration for Kapila. With great enthusiasm he would tell Swami: "What a wonderful man was your Kapila, Swami. In fact he was the father of science as well as of philosophy." In course of time a new Vedanta Centre was established in Brooklyn. The Swami assumed the direction of that centre also. A room for the meetings of the Yoga classes was engaged in the building of the Historical Society and the work grew rapidly. He was always ready to give help and advice to all members and friends and to all seekers after Truth. All who came into contact with him fel themselves benefhted thereby. Besides holding Yoga classes, giving lectures and teaching Sanskrit, he also taught the Upanishads as he was doing at Belur, He also spoke to them of the life of his Master, of His children and of India in general. They listened to every word of his with "intense interest", writes this correspondent, "for, the Swami Nirmalananda seemed to transport us to India, so clearly and so earnestly he spoke." The impression which he made on his hearers students and friends was so fast that time could no fade it. After thirty years' silence Mr. Charles F. Gray A.I.E.E., writes to him for spiritual help. As he was ready to teach, so was he ready to learn. Once when a nurse brought him his diet, he said he did not like it. "You mean, Swamiji, you do not care for it" said the nurse. He caught the difference in the expression and thanked her for the correction.
The teacher of Vedanta wore no solemn mien; the master of yoga had no mysterious air about him Simple and mirthful as a child, free and joyous as a school boy, he shed genial sunshine wherever he went. But deep beneath the plain exterior lay the austere ascetic and fiery monk. One glance of his pierced the thickest mask, and the cleverest fraud stood exposed. In New York there was a Psychic Research Society which called up and exhibited ghosts. The Swami was taken to it by some friends. Its proprietor was a lady, Miss Miller, who herself had a ghostlike face. She asked which ghost they wanted to see. The Swami said that he would like to see the ghost of a Red Indian. The host led him to a room where there was only a pale bluish light. A ghost appeared. All on a sudden the Swami, the dare-devil, as he described himself, sprang forward and caught hold of the ghost's hand and shook it heartily. Instead of being aerial and intangible it was as hard as iron. The Swami then led the ghost three times round the room. It had no power of locomotion by itself. The fraud was thus exposed. A scientist friend who had accompanied the Swami wanted to see the ghost of a famous scientist. A ghost duly appeared. When asked about a well-known scientific formula, the ghost blushed. It was a clear case of false personation. Many such interesting experiences he had in America. He remained there for about three years working so whole-heartedly and giving so much satisfaction that his devotees, students and friends were very sorry to lose him. 'But,' in the words of Swami Ramakrishnananda, "urgent calls from his native land made him come back for the regeneration of his own mother land.'